At 2:45 am on Friday, my grandma slipped into the eternal.
My dad told me several hours later, as I was on my way out to the pumpkin patch. My grandma had been in a coma for almost two weeks, and I had had a chance to visit her in the hospital. The first time I was by myself. The second time, Jason and the girls went with me. My brother Jake and I sat next to each other, alternately participating in the conversations around us and wondering how to say goodbye to Grandma.
My sister said goodbye to Grandma over the phone Thursday night. The family was prepared for the inevitable.
I thought I was prepared, but it turns out I wasn't.
At 2:43 am on Friday, my grandma was here. And then two minutes later, she wasn't. As my parents and my aunts sang hymns in my grandma's room, I slept, unaware that a dear life was slipping away. Slipped. Gone.
I'm lucky that I got to grow up with all my grandparents. I have written often of my mom's parents who lived next door to me, part of the Family Farm. But no less important to my life were my dad's parents.
My grandma did not have an easy life, but never once did she seem broken by it. Of all my grandparents, she laughed the most. A great laughter that rolled through her body, contagious to everyone around her. I never wonder where my dad got his sense of humor; he was born into a family that laughed. Even as he and my aunts sat in my grandma's hospital room, I heard laughter.
It is just as well, of course, because their family has not been a stranger to grief. Every family has its share of heartache, but my grandma lived through an ocean of it. She lost her baby daughter. Lost her adult grandson. Experienced the heartache of divorce, both her own and her childrens'. Struggled through a health issue that ultimately took her from us.
I won't remember my grandma for her ability to live through loss; I'll remember my grandma for her ability to live through laughter.
I'll remember playing cards in her living room, eating candy from the ever present dish on the table.
I'll remember Christmases where my siblings and I sat together on Grandma's orange-flowered couch, laughing at our dad and the jokes he told to his sisters and mom. Oh how we'd laugh! Sometimes with the adults, more often at them.
I'll remember eating tv dinners as the Lawrence Welk Show played on the television, watching my grandma dance her way from the living to the kitchen. "Isn't this just beautiful," she'd say. "Oh, I love this song." And I'd sit enraptured by my grandma's movements, her feet moving in a complicated pattern across the floor.
I'll remember the rose scented perfume she wore, the brightness of her eyes, the long beautiful necklaces she never forgot to wear.
I'll remember that she told me so often I was beautiful. Remember that she loved a gift of lotion I gave her for Christmas one year. Remember a necklace she gave me when I was little. Remember the china--her china--that she gave me when I got married. A lovely set of white dishes, rimmed in silver and pink flowers. A perfect personification of herself.
I don't think it's fully hit me that my grandma doesn't live in her apartment anymore. I've still mentally set aside the day we'll visit her for Christmas. I still have her on my address list of those who receive a Valentine's Day card from us. Even as I type these words, I think, "She's not really gone."
And if I were feeling sentimental and trite, I could say, truthfully, that she isn't really gone. Her memory lives on.
I don't want the memory though.
I want my grandma.