One year ago today my Grandma passed away. I was in a meeting with my boss and two other coworkers when I got the call. I had carried my cell into the meeting with me, something I rarely did. I was on edge and needed to feel that I was accessible if there were any updates on Grandma’s condition. When I saw a number that I didn’t recognize pop up on my cell phone screen, my heart sank. I stood outside in the hall while a doctor told me that Grandma had stopped breathing and had passed away peacefully that morning. I remember sinking to the floor with tears in my eyes – such a horrible, crushing feeling. I spoke with the doctor for several minutes. He was very kind, and I’ll never forget how comforting he was. I walked back into the meeting room, averting my eyes, embarrassed that I was crying. My dear friend Lori noticed immediately that something was wrong. She helped me gather my things and then gave me a huge hug in the hallway. Thank goodness for her, literally giving me a shoulder to cry on when I needed it most.
Several minutes later as I was grabbing my purse out of my desk and heading out to my car, I got a mass text message from my dad, sharing the news that Grandma had passed away. I remembering saying a silent prayer of thanks. The night before when I visited Grandma, a nurse had been especially kind to me and had taken my phone number so that she could keep me updated on how Grandma was doing. If that nurse hadn’t given the doctor my number, I would have found out about her passing via text message. Thank God for small mercies.
The next few hours and days were a blur of grief. I could say quite a bit about those moments of grief – Brad taking off from work to drive me to the hospital so that I could have one more goodbye, seeing my Grandma’s best friend Margaret holding her hand for the last time, crying and laughing with Alicia and Daryl at lunch later that day – but I would rather focus on some of my fondest memories of Grandma.
I remember as a child, a trip to Grandma and Papa’s house was such a treat. Grandma and Papa were always so happy. They loved each other, and they loved us – that sort of happiness seeps into your soul and fills you up. Papa was famous for his laugh – it was truly infectious. In fact, I referred to him as “Laughing Papa” for years. Because I had two Papas, I gave them each separate monikers. I named Papa B. “Laughing Papa”; he got a kick outta that. Papa K. was “Dancing Papa” because he would dance with me in the parking lot after church.
But there was only one Grandma, in more ways than one. She was such a bright light in my life – I called her my Elizabeth Taylor. She always had the biggest smile and hugs for me. She was a wonderful listener and was my closest confidante for the better part of my life. So many happy memories…
I remember her teaching me how to put on lipstick for the first time; I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. We laughed and laughed when I got lipstick all over my face.
She taught me how to fold my napkin in my lap and how to write a good “thank you” note. I always looked to her for advice on etiquette.
She took Alicia and me on shopping trips before school started every year. We were allowed to pick out one outfit, and the price didn’t matter – a rare treat.
When we stayed at their house, Papa would go to bed early, and Grandma, Alicia, and I would all stay up late. We would eat popcorn and watch movies until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. My love for movies – especially classic movies – began at Grandma’s.
I remember when Alicia and I were little, we always asked to watch this silly western with Ann Margaret, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kirk Douglas (yes, you read that right. Google it – it’s called The Villain). I specifically remember joking about Charming’s “melons” – we would roll with laughter throughout that movie.
I remember waking up at their house. I was a notoriously late sleeper, but I would wake up early out of sheer excitement at Grandma’s. We would spend the day at the park, or at the movies, or at the pool. But the day always started with donuts. Papa was an early riser, so he would go to Jack and Jill’s before we woke up. When Alicia and I came into the breakfast room, Papa and Grandma would each be at one end of the table, reading their section of the paper. Grandma ate a grapefruit and coffee; Alicia and I always had to eat a bowl of cereal before we ate our donut.
I remember Christmas Eve – a huge party with the extended family. Papa would cook – he was such a wonderful cook. The tree would look so beautiful. In the dining room was a table covered in desserts. I swear, I still dream about that table. For two years, I was blessed to include Grandma at a Christmas party in my own home – I will cherish those memories.
I remember long drives back and forth from Temple to Dallas to see the summer musicals at the Dallas Music Hall. We never turned on the radio; we would talk the whole drive down and back. We took that trip from the time I was in elementary school until I was in college.
When I went through a rough patch in high school and was depressed, I remember spending a week at her house. We talked and talked and talked. I have no doubts that almost every so-called problem I had was silly high-school drama, but she treated me like an adult and never discounted how I felt.
Years after Papa had passed away, I would go stay with Grandma in her apartment. We would sit up all night like old times and talk about our lives now, about the men we loved, about growing up. She was my dearest friend, and I miss her every day. When I see Vivian smile or try something new, I wish that I could tell Grandma all about it. She would have loved Vivian very much, and I am so proud that Vivian’s middle name is Netta after Grandma.
The day before Grandma passed away, Alicia and I left right after work to drive to Temple to visit her. We both chatted with her for several hours, then we each sat with her individually to have some private time together. The doctors had told us that Grandma would be moving to hospice that week, so we had no idea that we were seeing her on her last night. After Alicia stepped out of the room, I sat on the edge of the bed and held Grandma’s hand. We told each other how much we loved one another. She told me how proud of me she was. I remember just sitting and holding her hand, smiling at each other – she always called me “her happy, smiling girl”. I thank God for that opportunity to say goodbye, to tell her how dear she was to me.
Today I’ll burn a candle in her memory as she did every year for Papa after he passed. I’ll never forget you, Grandma.