It’s taken me over a month to write this, mostly because I know by writing it, I will have to accept it’s real. My grandmother Norma passed away in April, which has been really hard for me. Again, I wasn’t able to get home for the funeral, so in some sense, it still doesn’t feel completely real.
When I was little, my grandmother, who I called Grando, used to bring me special cough drops when I was sick. Somehow, they just made everything better. I’ve been sick twice in the last three weeks, and I could sure use some special cough drops now.
Growing up, I remember the following things about her:
1. She always smelled the same. Her scent was Estee Lauder Youth Dew, and when I smell on someone, I know it instantly.
2. She had a habit of “putting things in a safe place” and then forgetting where that safe place was – sometimes for years. I’m pretty sure this is genetic, as I can think of at least two items in a safe place here that I still cannot locate!
3. She made the best iced tea, and she told me her secret was to stick her finger in it. This seems kind of gross now, actually, but this is what I remember.
4. She always had a jar of pickles and frozen pizzas on hand when my brother and I visited. I will forever be fond of Totino’s Party Pizzas for this reason (even though I can no longer eat them.)
5. She was an excellent bargain shopper, and she taught me everything I know about finding good deals. To this day, I usually start at the clearance rack when looking for clothes or shoes!
When I was 21, my mom took me to Las Vegas and my grandparents met us there for the weekend. When we first arrived, my mom went to check us in while Grando and my grandpa taught me how to play the slot machines. This was in 2000, so the machines all still took coins back then. She handed me a bucket of nickels and within minutes, I had nickels pouring out of the machine. Later on that same trip, my mom showed me how to play Keno and we won $800 first try, so I think she was a bit concerned that I would think Vegas was always like this!
That trip was the only time I can ever remember my grandmother drinking (she had exactly one drink.) I have hilarious memories of what occurred shortly after that one drink, that I will treasure forever.
Grando had a very serious health episode several years ago, where she almost died, and since then, she’s not been able to get around or out of the house much. My mom and I did take her to get pedicures a few years ago, and I have a great picture of her from the nail salon looking happy. I was lucky enough to celebrate her 80th birthday with her as well, with a family dinner at a nearby restaurant with an epic happy hour and an enormous, random menu.
After my father’s mother passed away in October, right before I had a chance to mail her a postcard from Scotland, I got my shit together and bought some Skype credit so I could call Grando and Grandpa. (Grandpa hates the phone but I can usually get a few sentences before he runs away.) In some of our last conversations, she was very worried about whether I’d get married and if she’d get to see that happen. I’m sorry that she didn’t, but I think she understood that I’m happy where I’m at now – as hard as it can be to be far from home, I’m getting to see the world and experience life in a different culture.
My last call to her was a few weeks before she passed – she’d been in and out of the hospital and was just transferred to a rehab facility. She was in the middle of physical therapy when I called, so she couldn’t talk, but she yelled “I love you” from behind my grandpa. That was the last time I heard her voice. I’m glad I called.