A Life that Touches Others Goes on Forever

December 2, 2009
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I hopped in the van pleased to be escaping from my house at such a time at night. Not by any means does my mother allow me to leave after nine; this was a special treat. I didn’t care where I was headed, as long as I departed from my house.

All the stop lights were off. I squinted my eyes as to avoid looking straight into the flashing yellow lights. As we drove past the Yarmouth Post Office I glanced up. It looked like a graveyard. Not a car in sight. I squeezed my eyes shut pretending I was back in bed. The car jerked to a stop as we pulled up to the back parking lot. We were only going across town, yet it felt like forever to get there. I started to open the car door; but as I did, my mother stopped me. I was eager to depart for the car, but sat patiently waiting for her to speak.

“Melissa, you don’t have to do this. It’s going to be hard, and I don’t want you to remember Grandma this way. If you need to, just step out into the hall.” Her cautioning voice was almost comforting. I took a deep breath and shoved the car door open. I stomped my foot down, confident and strong. I glanced back at my Mom and whispered, “I’ll be fine.”

There was an old man seated in a cushioned lawn chair smoking a cigar. Vast puffs of smoke escaped from the pipe, disappearing into the night sky. He waved a gentle hand in my direction, but I ignored his gesture. I heaved the door to the facility open. It is a lockdown building so you have to enter codes to open doors.

My mother slowly twisted the doorknob to my grandma’s room. The television was bright and blaring. I thought back to when my mother and I would go to her condo and walk her dog. We could hear the television clearly when we pulled into the driveway, yet she could barely hear it.

I looked over at the woman that I had known and loved my whole life. Someone who was vibrant and happy, someone who always kept a smile on her face was now lying on her chair curled up in a ball. The perm she had her whole life was now faded and flat. Her mouth was wide open and she was pale as ever; but she still had light in her eyes. My mother crouched down and knelt by her side. She stroked my grandma’s head and gently pulled her hair out of her face.

“Mom, I want you to know how much you mean to me. You are the best mother I could ever ask for. You have provided me the with best life possible, and for that I thank you. I love you Mom.”

At this point, small wet tears started making their way down my cheeks. I sat down on the edge of her bed, placed my head in my hands and wept. I couldn’t hold it back any longer. I could taste the salty tears collecting at the corners of my mouth once they had made their way down my cheeks. I wiped them away with the back of my hand. My mother came over and took my hand in hers. I took a deep breath, trying to be strong for her. Right then, it became clear how much my grandma meant to my mother. My grandma had been there for my mother her whole life, and had taken care of her. For that, she means so much to me, too.

I couldn’t utter a word. I thought back to those special times I spent with Grandma, like baking cookies with her at holidays. We would set up the brown wooden table in the middle of her living room and carefully cut and place the cookies. We always used the cut-and-bake cookies that had holiday symbols on them. She would cut them and I would gently place them on the tin foil, alternating the placement. While they were baking we would curl up on her couch and read Pee-A-Boo books. It was a comforting feeling curling up next to my Grandma on her pink flowery couch. I would inhale deep breaths trying to catch the sweet smell of cookies. Then there was hearing three honks of a horn which always told us that Grandma was here. She always said that the three honks meant, I love you. When she would come over for Christmas and wear her chickadee sweatshirt or the one with the bells on it so that they would jingle when she walked around. One of the best memories I remember is how every Thanksgiving she would buy celery for us. Before she came over, she would always slave away and take off every bit of strings attached to the celery. She said she did it because it made her feel important, like she was helping. For some reason it always bothered her to watch people do work for her. My grandma was a school teacher. She always told stories about how one year she taught a class for 40 students. She taught the students that came from different countries and weren’t so fortunate. My grandma always loved to help people.

I never truly respected my grandma. Sometimes she would annoy or frustrate me. When I stepped in that room and saw her lying there, I sincerely gained respect for her. You don’t realize how much you love someone until they’re gone. Sometimes when I lie in bed I pretend she is watching over me. I talk to her, and tell her how much she means to me. I figure she probably can’t hear me, but it makes me feel better the think she can. When I go to events and different activities and see children there with their grandparents, a part of me dies inside. I wish I could be that child, that fortunate kid that gets to spend their time with their grandparent. I took my grandma for granted. Sometimes I thought she was a hassle and I got annoyed with her lack of humor.

It’s only been a couple weeks since I went to see her for the last time. It touched my heart and will continue to have an impact on me for the rest of my life. This taught me to accept the good and bad attributes of people because you don’t realize how much you love someone until they’re gone.

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