Originally Written: March 3, 2018
This has been a terrible week. Not just terrible – emotional, stressful, reflective, long – all fitting words to describe the array of emotions that have passed. (And whatever I’ve been feeling has been exponentially worse for Alex.)
One of the causes of those tumultuous emotions has been the decline and passing of my grandmother. My mother had told me she hadn’t been doing well for a few weeks and a couple days ago it was made known the end was near. Getting advanced knowledge did make that fateful message easier, I’m not going to lie, but it still flat out sucked. I had prepared myself for the inevitable, had wrapped my head around the idea and was relieved to know she wasn’t suffering any longer, but the news was saddening just the same.
I won’t begin to say that I was extremely close to my grandmother. We did not have the kind of relationship my kids have with their four grandparents, but what Nanner and I had was a constancy.
She was the first extended relative to hold me after I was born. She took my mom shopping the day I was born, watched after my older brother while she was in labor with me, and then got to meet me when I was hours old.
She made me a Power Rangers costume for Halloween when I was five. (Maybe six?) That thing was the bomb. In my juvenile mind that bad boy could have walked straight out of the Pink Power Ranger’s dressing room; no costume has ever topped that suit.
She sent me mountains of gifts every year at Christmas. Really….As a kid I got stockings stuffed with everything my mom hated. Chocolate, blue nail polish, lime green eye shadow, whistles, you name it. And when the candy wouldn’t fit she’d pile the rest into tins and make all the chocolates taste like the mints that were sprinkled on top.
I got an ornament from her each year. They were adorable and were always the gift I chose to open on Christmas Eve when we were allowed one present. It was always a good day when Nanner’s Christmas box arrived…
Fortunately, I had a clue as to what was going down this year, so when our box arrived in February (hello, space available mail) I was actually able to take a moment and appreciate the toys my kids received a little more than I probably had in years past. I’m sure when December rolls around and I hang all those ornaments on our tree, I’ll feel completely heartbroken knowing for the first time in 28 years a new one won’t be had.
Nanner showed her love for us grandchildren through her craftsmanship. She was a seamstress which resulted in never having to buy a blanket or doily or matching mother/daughter dress set (because you’re wondering…third grade. They were green velvet with teddy bear buttons.) I had three or four pillow/blanket contraptions around my room growing up; a blanket that could be folded up and tucked in a pocket to make a pillow.
The fleece throws numbered in the dozens. My mom actually rotated them on the couch because there were so many. And all of mine managed to make the move into my home once I left the nest. I have a ratty Care Bears one I used as a toddler, a Wizard of Oz snuggie, a Minnie Mouse, and a Redskins one that probably came from her.
When I was a freshman at Florida State, she made me a gorgeous FSU quilt. It is absolutely beautiful and anyone who has stayed at my house knows it, because it’s my showcase on the guest bed. What’s the point of having something so beautiful if you don’t show it off?
And all that stuff…those are the little things.
Nanner made my table runners for my wedding.
What better gift could I ask for than to have something personally made as part of my decorations? Additionally, my grandmother made my mother’s wedding dress. Yes, handmade it. So the tradition of playing a hand in such a big day was very symbolic to me.
But the biggest gesture my grandmother did for me was make my childrens’ nursery set.
When I was pregnant with Landon, my mom and I went to a fabric store and I found a design I loved. I picked something gender neutral because I knew the items were going to be so special that I wanted them to carry over to any additional children – boy or girl.
I sent her a sample and what she gave me back was amazing. I could not have asked for a better set. It was green and brown and cream colored and was warm and comforting and I swear it makes me want to have another baby just to use the items again. No other kid in the world (all right, maybe somewhere in the world. The fabric was available for anybody to buy, after all) had this exact same nursery set.
And the best part? My kids are still using some of the pieces to this day. Evie has the pillows she made on her toddler bed. And Landon has a small quilt that’s still out in his room. So every single morning and night since Landon was an infant, I have gotten to see them and be reminded of my grandmother’s skill and her love.
I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Last year, we exchanged hand written letters. Handwritten! Who does that anymore? I actually had to dig around in my office supplies to find some stamps to mail my letter back to her, because who actually puts pen to paper to communicate anymore? How grateful am I that I did, though…
The last time I saw my grandmother in person was back around 2009/2010. She came down to visit and was able to meet Alex. And while I didn’t get too many face to face encounters with her, she was present and formative through my mother’s stories. My mom always had plenty of memories to share about her mother; I grew to know some of them quite well and used them to remind me that I’m not the first mom to pass through these treacherous parental waters nor will I be the last.
When Landon broke his leg at 2 and the doctors prepared me for a call from protective services (thanks, son) my mom told the story of how they got called on her mom because she had to take three kids into the emergency room in the span of a week because they were horsing around outside.
When everyone in my house was stricken with a stomach bug over Christmas, my mom relived the time her and her sisters were all sick over the holidays and Nanner had to confine them to one room/bathroom to keep it from their visiting elder relatives.
When I was a teenager and pushed back against my parents’ rules, my mother gently reminded me that it could be worse…my mother could work in the school lunchroom and be right there at school with me like Nanner was for her in junior high.
When I brought Alex home and my parents took an instant liking to him, my mom observed that it was just like when she brought my dad home and Nanner loved him.
The stories were there (even the bad ones…like having to eat oatmeal and wheat bread all the time and not being allowed to wear blue jeans) and my mom never shied away from telling them. It allowed me to know Nanner and makes my heart break even more for my mother and aunts and uncles.
I have been extremely fortunate and haven’t really lost a family member before (a few uncles and aunts) so I don’t have a lot of experience in this field. Unfortunately, Alex and I have had to deal with life and mortality more this week than we ever have before, (but that’s another story and it’s not mine to tell) and I just hope my mother can find a path that leads her to peace during this time. You always need your Mama, no matter how old you are, and there will now forever be a crack in my mom’s heart from the loss of hers. I wish I could be there to make her some Joffrey’s coffee with coconut creamer, not complain as we share a plate of her mother’s goulash recipe (yuck) and support her through her pain. But I’m over here and she’s over there and when Alex and I signed up for this Germany tour we knew it came at a cost.
We had no idea this and some other personal matters would be the price we’d pay, but we’re taking it in strides and taking each day one at a time. Life is precious and fleeting and all we can do is grab it by the wisps and cherish the strands we get for as long as we get them for.