Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dear Grandma,

I miss you.

There are a few days of my life that I remember specifically, and one of them is Saturday, March 17th, 1990. I remember, clearly, being at the theater for rehearsal; I didn't know we were supposed to have brought a lunch, so I called home during break, which is when I was told that you had passed away. Brandy and I cried and cried, and someone bought us Arby's.

I remember the way your home smelled. Cinnamon. And tea. And clean. And lovely, lovely smoke -- pipe smoke, cigarette smoke. I can still recall the scent and feel of the blankets on the beds in the rooms of your home - the home on Lakin, the home in Lakewood, the home in Stillwater. And you, I could smell you, too. The lipstick. The hairspray and perfume. The Oil of Olay. I can still see it all laid out so prettily on top of your dresser. How I loved to watch you put on your lipstick. You took such care. And always dressed to the nines. Always.


I have one memory of you sitting at the table in the dining room in the house in Busti. You were sitting with your back to the south-facing windows, your legs crossed. Likely there was loud music playing (or maybe that's just every single other memory I have of that room); you called me over to you, and I stood at your left side. You placed your cigarette into an ashtray and studied my face. Your hand on my cheek, you surprised yourself with your words: "You, young lady, are developing quite a jaw line." I didn't know the meaning of those words, only that whatever it was, it pleased you, and that made me happy.

Of course there are the other memories. Visits after swimming lessons, where you told me to not make crumbs because they would "call ants." Playing with the mini cast-iron stove. Wanting so desperately, so badly, to play with the glass dolls, especially the one with the blond hair. Your sweet iced tea. Chocolate Milk With A Bendy Straw -- so iconic each word requires capitalization. You made lunch for me and had no other desire other than to watch me eat it, ready to clean up or serve more at my very whim. While watching a show together on the making of The Karate Kid, I was horrified to see someone applying lip color with a brush to my precious Ralph Macchio, but you assured me that wearing makeup was part of his job. (Why do I remember that? Oh, that's right, because I have the same discussion - different actor - with my kids frequently.)

When I heard your specific request that the grandchildren not attend your funeral, I was angry. I thought I should be the exception. Now I understand - really get it -- that you wanted us to remember the way you looked at Thanksgiving, before the pancreatic cancer so quickly wreaked havoc upon your body. I get it.

I have cried. I have wept while thinking of your absence. Even now, twenty years later, my memories are fresh and my heart hurts. I wish we could talk about my life. You would be so, so proud, I know you would. With my sadness, though, I am profoundly grateful for what was my lot to be your oldest grandchild, doted upon like no other. I have thought often over the years of how I wish to convey that to the others, in case they don't remember, in case they ever wondered, that they could know that had your time here been longer, they, too, would have been the recipients of such; and my deepest sorrow of your not being here -- the most tears and the most sincere tears -- have, in fact, been for Natalie, Mia, and Lian. How wonderful a legacy you left for us to teach them about you.

I know I'll see you again. But for now, Grandma Elly . . .

I miss you.

15 comments:

Emily said...

Such sweet memories. Thank you for sharing.

cw said...

love this. love you.

Melissa said...

what a beautiful post...that made me tear up (thanks a lot :) I know how you feel...when its the 20 year anniversary for my grandmother, I know I will feel the same way you do.

Vern said...

I was thinking about my grandma today too because St. Patrick's day is her birthday. She's been passed for quite a while, but I SO identified with all those smells we associate with the ones we love! Roses. Tobacco. Rice Krispy Treats.:)

beans said...

This made me cry and it's not cool to cry at my desk. I often think of her and one thing I love is when I visit Natalie & Mia, Mia is always asking me to tell her stories about Grandma. Love you.

~j. said...

Emily - thank you.

cw - love you too.

Melissa - I know you know how it feels, you and your grandmother were so close, and I know it hasn't been the easiest year for you. You have a beautiful heart.

Vern - What a great day to have a birthday! Smell of rice krispie treats...mmm...

beans - i love you, too.

Geo said...

My heart's aching for you. I love you, ~j.

Maybe you should cash in your "Story Corps" credit (no expiration date) and let me record you telling some memories about your grandmother.

Gerb said...

I never had a close relationship with any of my grandparents but I still feel their absence and wish my kids could have known them. Beautiful, ~j.

Kara said...

You truly captured well the joy of grandparents, the heart ache that comes when they die and the blessing that knowing we will see them again is. Thanks for sharing you memories. I loved reading them and reflecting on my own grandparents who have died.

Jerry said...

thank you,Jenny
She is very proud of you

lisa said...

Lovely, my friend.

Holly said...

Beautiful letter.
I miss my Grandma. She's still alive but she lives 2000 miles away now, and I haven't seen her in 2 years. She wouldn't recognize me even if I were to see her, but I'd love to sit next to her and hold her hand for a while.
My other grandma died 20 years before I was born. I miss her too, because I know she loves me, and she loved my dad so very much for the 13 years they were together.
Thanks for writing this.

Kalli Ko said...

I have only one living grandparent still and I wish I could have known the others better. I have a few special memories but mostly I can't wait to meet them again someday, like in a long time.

Until then my girl cousins and my sister and I have lunch with my grandma every Thursday. I like that.

~j. said...

Geo - thank you, my friend. I haven't forgotten about my credit with you, and I have plans for it...likely this summer. Thank you for being patient with me.

Gerb, Kara, Lisa, Holly, Kalli - Thank you.

Dad - Love you.

b. said...

This is beautiful.
What an incredible blessing Grandmas are.
I love your words...and I have to believe that somewhere, somehow...so does Grandma Elly.