February 26, 2013
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I was raised by my Mama and Grandma; my father was never really in the picture, but that’s a different story. I have the best parents in the world, and I will talk about them throughout this class, but this memoir is for Grandma.

When Mom was at work or couldn’t take me somewhere Grandma was always there for me. We can talk about most anything, and usually we talk for hours on end. I always knew that when I needed a shoulder to cry on she would always be there.

This past year has been one of loss for my Grandma. It all started in July. On a particularly quiet Friday night we got a phone call. I had already gone to bed, but Grandma told me about it the next morning. Her father in Brunswick, Georgia had been found by the neighbor’s dog. He wasn’t dead, he had only fallen, but we didn’t know how long he had been there. The hospital called Grandma’s brother-Uncle Bill- first, he then called us. The following Saturday was particularly quiet.

We had bagels like we always do on Saturdays. The oven was set on broil and heating up the small kitchen and the rest of the apartment. Grandma was frying eggs for my Uncle Brien’s egg mit on an Everything Bagel; nasty things if you ask me, they give him the raunchiest breath ever known to man. The smell of heated bagels, frying egg and hot tea clung to the air. We ate and drank, swapping stories and jabbing at each other with really bad jokes. After a while they had to leave because of Saturday chores to be done. I typically stay with my Grandma on weekends-I know I have a riveting social life-so I helped her clean up and we listened to “Celtic Thunder” in the background. We just sang along and cleaned up the chaos that had been our family coming over.

For the rest of the day we watched movies and just talked. In the afternoon of that Saturday her brother called again. He told us that the nurses had been taking Grandpa to get an MRI done when his heart rate dropped very suddenly. Uncle Bill said that Grandma should get down there as soon as possible. Grandma called my Mom telling her, what had happened, and Mom offered to tell my uncles for her. I don’t remember how Rhonda found out, but what I do remember is that Rhonda-despite the fact that her husband was dying from cancer-paid for the plane ticket and gave Grandma $200 extra, just in case. I tried my best to keep Grandma smiling, which was usually her job when she saw that someone was sad. We got her suitcase down and got it opened and started to set things out to pack it. I picked up her cat, Sneakers, and put her in the suitcase. It made Grandma laugh, but then Sneakers decided it was pretty dang comfortable in there and didn’t move. Grandma picked up her little one and held her for a while. That was the comfort she needed for right now. I went over and put my arms around them both; Grandma was shaking, but only slightly. I kissed her silver and white hair that smelled of Herbal Essence hairspray and she leaned towards me and I hugged her tighter. It was a struggle not to shed my own tears, but for the sake of Grandma I held them back.

We then planned that my grandfather, Papa would join her, the following Friday to be there for her. He couldn’t get off of work any sooner than that and I would stay at the apartment to take care of Sneakers. I woke up to see her get off at the airport at four in the morning on Monday. I hugged her goodbye, a really long and tight hug. I kissed her cheek and said our goodbyes. She then hugged Papa even longer and started to cry. I had to turn away to hide my tears; she didn’t need to see them, she had tears of her own. We watched her go through security as far as we could, and then we waved one last time. Papa and I headed back home, and went back to bed. When I woke up awhile later he was gone to work.

My Aunt and Uncle gave Grandma their old cell phone and set up a pay-as-you-go plan for her. She called my Mom throughout the day to update the rest of us on her progress. When she landed in the Atlanta airport she was waiting by the terminal for her connecting flight; her sister Ellen sat down next to her. They ironically sat next to each other on the flight down to Brunswick. That made us back home happy, simply for the fact that Grandma wasn’t alone.
By the time the sisters got to the hospital, Grandpa was in a sort of coma. My little cousins had sent with Grandma hand drawn pictures saying “Get Well Grandpa. We love you!” She placed them next to his hospital bed. When things didn’t look like they would turn around the siblings decided it was best if they put their father on life-support and Hospice.

Grandma and Papa had apparently talked before she left and she told him to take me out to a movie on Thursday, before he left on Friday. We decided we would go and see “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer” because we could. It was a gory and fun film to watch. I had to sneak out to use the restroom once, but didn’t miss much. I went back in and sat down next to Papa who was munching away on movie popcorn. A few moments later my phone started to buzz, I checked it thinking it was Mom and I could just let it go to voicemail. It wasn’t.

I hurried out of the theater as fast as I could on my stubby legs. I answered and the first thing I heard was Grandma’s sob.

“Grandma?” I whispered.

“Hi baby doll.” Her voice was hoarse with tears. “I’m sorry to interrupt your movie sweetie-”

“Grandma, don’t be sorry. What’s wrong?”

“Grandpa’s gone sweetie,” a cry from the background. “About ten minutes ago.”

By then I was crying myself and I couldn’t hide it when I told her I loved her and I was so sorry. We said goodbye and I went back into the theater. I sat down next to Papa who was done with the popcorn and he handed it to me. I sat there for a few minutes deciding how to tell him that his wife needed him more now. I decided it was best just to tell him now. I leaned over and whispered loudly in his ear, he can’t hear that well. It took one more time for him to understand me, and then he gripped my hand tighter than I thought possible. I looked over and saw a single tear running down his whiskered cheek. I let my own tears fall as President Lincoln beheaded another vampire.

The next day Papa and my aunt and uncle started the drive out to Magadore, Ohio where Grandpa was to be buried next to his wife, who had passed away nearly a decade before. My Uncle would officiate the funeral, like he did for his grandma. I started taking care of Sneaky, and making arrangements for her to be taken care of when we were out of town. My best friend Annie was more than willing to oblige, bless her heart.

On Saturday we made our way out to Ohio. We spent our days exploring the surrounding area, it’s lovely up there. And we visited Amish country; they were the nicest people you will ever meet.

The day of the funeral we dressed in traditional black. I wore a new long black skirt; I didn’t have one before this, and a nice shirt. The funeral service was simple, and my uncle did a wonderful job. Instead of a hymn or any sort of religious song, we chose to play Bing Crosby’s version of “Danny Boy”. So now whenever we hear that song, Grandma and I both cry.

My Great-Grandfather served in World War II. So he received a fitting 21 gun salute at the grave site. As the flag was being folded “Taps” was being played. Until then I had cried only a few tears, but when that song played, the whole reality of what had happened over the past week hit me and tears fell down my cheeks with abandon. As I looked around me it seemed like the same revelation was being had, by the rest of my family. Including my Uncle Andy, who resembled a taller, skinnier, and furrier version of my Great-Grandpa.

We said our final goodbyes to Grandpa. And the roses from the casket were given to his children, his grandchildren, and his eldest great-grandchild, me. Grandma, Mom and I held each other in a tight group hug for as long as we could before we had to get going for the luncheon.

Grandma and I will always be close; I’ve known that since I can remember. If my children have half as close a relationship with their Grandma as I do mine, I know they will never be without a friend.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Cece said...
Apr. 18, 2013 at 11:45 am
Nice job Lee Ann!  Great story!
nebraskafan777 said...
Mar. 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm
Wonderful article!!  Very well written and moving.  Made me teary!!! 
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