Because I am only interested in football to the extent which my husband is emotionally invested, and as it is a begrudging, reluctant, and generally suspicious-of-rabid sports-fans interest, I will not be writing about The Big Game that just finished a bit ago. I hoped you'd humor me for one more post about my grandmother - her funeral was Saturday afternoon and I wanted to write down some thoughts.
At some point my grandma disappeared into herself. I didn't see her often enough to know when it happened or what it was like - I was very busy with my own life an hour away from hers. When I saw her it tended to be at my parents' house, usually with other people around, and she sat in her chair with a cup of coffee and a cookie - or, if she was lucky, one of the new babies that keep showing up in my family - and didn't speak unless spoken to. And even then you couldn't be sure that she actually heard you. It wasn't that I didn't remember the grandmother that used to cook massive meals for her giant family, or the grandmother who spent all her time sewing her granddaughters' wardrobe or playing cards with her neighbors or writing us cards. I just... well, that wasn't her anymore and while I missed that grandma, I wasn't around as much to have cause to WANT that grandma back. If that makes sense. I hope it doesn't sound harsh. I think I'd grown up and I didn't need or even necessarily want a giant dish of ice cream and a card game or black and white movie on a Saturday afternoon.
I would also add, though, that I still liked and enjoyed this older more forgetful and frail grandma. She was sweet and loved my babies and I could still make her laugh. I also spent my senior year of college working in an adult family home where I saw dementia and loss of independence and dignity and degenerating bodies to an extent that was sobering and sometimes frightening and I was always very VERY thankful my grandma did not need the level of care that these ladies did. Always in my mind was, "Well, at least she's not like THEM."
So it's been strange for me to spend the last couple of days thinking about my grandma the way she USED to be. I had to think back to those times in order to write the reflection I was asked to give at the funeral. What memories did I want to share? What stayed with me?
It honestly wasn't until I'd written what I wanted to say and then actually said it - so, halfway through the funeral - before it hit me that this was a whole person who left us. A busy, competent, productive woman who, in the last years of her life, was none of those things. As I listened to my own self speak I realized how I'd packaged my own grandmother into a nice White Fluffy-Haired Forgetful Old Lady box. A TV grandma. A character. And while I'd loved that grandma, she had been so much more. She'd been so much more in my own life.
I don't know why or how I did that. Maybe it was easier to think of her this way when my parents would sometimes seem angry or grieved about the things she no longer was. Maybe I was too busy to be sad about it. Maybe it just wasn't something that affected my present day life. Oh, that sounds awful.
I think this is why I was so relieved when she died. Relieved because I believe in Heaven and eternal life and she was free from that frail body and Alzheimered brain. I was only a little bit sad. A little bit affected. I mostly felt happy for her and not much like I'd lost anyone.
Then, at the end of the ceremony, when the priest waved the incense around her casket and laid his hand on the top while he prayed, when they began to wheel it out of the church, that's when everything became blurry and terrible. This was it! This was the end. And she was gone now and I saw my sister crying in the pew behind me and I thought, Oh, we don't have a grandma anymore.
We had such a good grandma, you guys.
This is what I shared at the funeral. I'm typing it here because I will for sure lose the paper I scrawled it on and I'd like to remember what I wrote.
Just wanted to share a few memories of my grandma.
Because of her, my favorite movie star, for a very long time, was Shirley Temple. And Shirley Temple movies at her house were accompanied by ice cream cones. There really was no better place to be than Grandma's house, where there was always a beater full of frosting, just for me. And then when I was older, when I'd grown out of the frilly dresses she used to make for me, we played cards - usually Spite & Malice. I know she taught my sisters Hand & Foot, but with me it was Spite & Malice. Always with a dish of candy nearby to keep up our strength.
But what I really associate with Grandma is Christmas. When I was a kid, Christmas wasn't about Santa or the Baby Jesus, it was about Grandma and Grandpa's house. Her crazy red tree, the piles of presents - half of which were slippers, the coffee table covered in snow globes and music boxes, the nativity scene surrounded by that weird angel hair stuff, and a table extended as far as it could possibly go. My Christmas attire was always, of course, a Grandma Original. One year she made a matching Christmas dress for my Cabbage Patch Doll. It was taped to one page of a scrapbook full of doll clothes, like a mini fashion portfolio of all the outfits she'd ever made for me. Christmas, in my mind, was tied so closely to Grandma that when my family moved overseas when I was 10 years old, I wasn't sure what we would DO at Christmastime. I strongly doubted a holiday without my grandmother was possible.
Earlier today my mom reminded me that she sent cards for every holiday - Valentine's Day, Easter. It really WASN'T possible to celebrate without her.
Many years later I've learned there are lots of ways to celebrate holidays and special occasions, but Grandma's style continues to be the one I prefer. I've been known to color coordinate a tree and I often buy two bags of candy - one for my guests and one for me. As I reflect on what my grandmother meant to me, I'm reminded that in my home there's no such thing as too many decorations or too many slices of cake, and there are never too many people.