29 & Holding

There is this woman I know. She has fluffy white hair. Her cheeks are dimpled. Her eyes squinty from losing her vision. Her back is a little hunched from walking with a walker for several years. Her knees aren’t springy. Her ankles retain water. Her mind alert. Her wit sharp.

I have known and loved this woman since the day I was born.

She is my grandmother.

Two days ago I received a text informing me that she has been hospitalized. She is being treated for a Urinary Tract Infection and Congestive Heart Failure. They expected her to discharge yesterday.

She did not.

Her kidneys are slowing down.

Today the update was that family is flying in from around the country & in the morning her children will meet with hospice.

As my cousins & I sat around her hospital bed this evening, we joked about which one of us was her favorite. Clearly, I was the winner. We told stories of things we remember from our childhood. We laughed at our silliness & the fun we had always had when visiting “ma-maw” & “pa-paw” as children. (Don’t laugh. I told you I was a corn fed mid-Western white girl.)

But what my cousins or aunts or uncles don’t know is the value this woman has in my heart.

Was she perfect? Nope. She is a liar. If you ask her age, she will tell you 29. Since I was a child, this woman has been 29. Lying in that hospital bed tonight was not a 29 year old. Lying there was my 91 and 1/2 year old grandmother. And all I could think about was all the moments I have had with her, and all the moments I wish I could have with her.

When I talk about being sassy or ornery or stubborn, I always say I got it from my grandma. She’s Irish. We don’t have the ginger hair but we have that ornery and sometimes cantankerous wit.

My grandparents house had comic books, (stacks & stacks & stacks!!!) a creek with a bridge over it, blackberry bushes, tons of land and a cement turtle we would ride to wherever we were headed that day. We had adventures every time we were there, catching crawdads in the creek, eating blackberries and hiding from one another. If I was alone I would read comic after comic. I would sort them out so I would remember which ones were read and which I had yet to read. I would organize them so neatly only to have my cousins visit in between me and mess them up.

She had a clear glass cookie jar on the counter we would sneak cookies from. She had teaberry gum. Her bathroom smelled like old lady rose soap, one of my most favorite scents now. They lived just down the street from a natural spring so we would take milk jugs and fill them with water. It was so crisp and cold we would drink as much as possible before leaving.

When I was in junior high, my mother quit speaking to her. When I got my license, I would drive myself to their house and eat lunch or hang out with them. She introduced me to one of my favorite movies, Brigadoon. It’s silly. But now more than ever, it will be special.  I got a job at a mall that backed up to their yard and I would stop by before or after work. I loved visiting with them. Rarely was I alone. Someone else always popped in.

After I moved out of my parents house, I remember she said to me once that she didn’t know how to save me from them. What I didn’t realize at the time…

She had.

Looking back, the fond memories I have in my childhood include my cousins, my aunts & uncles, my grandparents (excluding the child molester), my sisters & friends. Many of those memories happened at her house. My life was hard at home but my grandparents house was my sanctuary. They were my sanctuary.

So ma-maw, my wish is to see your fiery grin, to hear your sharp witted retorts and to kiss your soft cheeks for another 91 years. But if it is time for you to go home, to go see pa-paw, you leave behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. You have deposited bits of your heart & spirit into each of your children, grandchildren & great grandchildren. We will carry on the feisty Irish spunk in your honor. But you will be sorely missed because you have carried us along this journey for the last 91 years.

I love you Ma-maw.

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