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Woman of Steel
Woman of Steel
When I was little, visiting my grandma Milly and grandpa Beer up in Wawasee, Indiana, was considered my “perfect” weekend. I remember waiting for the days, counting down every second until I would be able to pack my bags and spend the weekend with grandma. When the weekends finally blew around, we would pile into the car and make our hour and thirty minute trip north. When we would get there, grandma would be standing outside the house, smiling from ear-to-ear. My brothers and I would run and give her the biggest hug, as if we hadn’t seen her in years. I remember the atmosphere around her was always welcoming and warm, almost enticing you to hug and hold on. Grandma Milly was a strong woman, and it always made her unique. She was a warrior, set to battle life’s many tragedies, and every time she would overcome them.
My grandma stood about 5’5’’, 140 pounds. She had what my brothers and I referred to as, “g-ma fro.” She would always wear house slippers, even when she went outside. She usually had on a sweater, most of the time pale blue or white, and her thick rimmed glasses. My grandma was little compared to my aunts and uncles, but she was by far the strongest at heart and mind.
Time with grandma meant everything. My cousins and I would wake up and go sit at the table and talk to her as she cooked breakfast. She always made the best food, and what my cousin described as, “killer French Toast.”
While she cooked, she would ask questions about school, life, and friends. Usually slipping in, “Do you have a boyfriend?” Then, smiling real big, she’d wink. Of course, at the time, boys still had “coodies”, and I would remind her.
You could always talk to grandma. She would always be there to listen to us, and give us constructive criticism and advice, whether it was school or life in general. She would set aside her work and listen to you blab on about nothing in particular. She was always there for you whenever you needed her. And to me, she would always be there, always and forever.
The weekends would fly by, and soon enough it would be time to go home. My family would pack up our things, load the van, and head back to Westfield, Indiana. We would say goodbye to grandma Milly and grandpa, taking for granted the many weekends we would share again. After our goodbyes, we would head out, leaving my grandparents house in the dust as we waved at them from the car.
I would head back to school then, counting down every day till the next visit. Surely it would be in a few weeks, as it always was. I would think of what to tell grandma, or what new gymnastic tricks to show her, or maybe what we did on our fieldtrip. But I didn’t know what was to come.
I came home one day to find my dad home early. He and my mom were in the kitchen talking. My dad seemed very upset and my mom had tears in her eyes. It confused me because I rarely ever saw them upset like this. It made me nervous and upset too to see them that way.
My dad explained to us that grandma had been battling a disease called polythemia for twenty some years. He said it was a disease in which you bleed internally. But, that wasn’t it. They had just received a call from grandpa that in the last week, her polythemia had turned into leukemia, which was a very deadly cancer.
I immediately burst into tears. Nothing could take grandma away from me, nothing. Not even her “stupid” leukemia. I was confused why no one told us about grandma’s illness. Looking back, it was probably for our own good. I would have hated to think of grandma as “sick.”
My parents tried to comfort me by telling me that we were going to go visit her and be with her, as was all my family. Still, the fact of my grandma being in pain made me sick to my stomach. But at least I could go see her and give her a hug, even if it was the last time.
It has been at least four years since my grandma Milly passed away. She was only 68 years old. I can remember the day perfectly. It was full of tears, sadness, and grief as I watched my grandma being lowered into the ground. She wouldn’t be there for me anyone more. I couldn’t talk to her, hug her, or see her warm smiling face again. But my grandma is still with me in a sense. She is tightly woven into my heart, like a band aid to the wound. She taught me so many things, like how to love and share, how to put other before yourself, but most of all, how to be strong. My grandma had polythemia for twenty years, and not once did I hear her complain about it. She was a woman of steel, with a heart of gold.
Like my dad said before our interview was over, “We will all miss her, but she will always be there for you, no matter the distance. She will always be watching over you, as she is now, smiling ear-to-ear.”