Friday, January 31, 2014

Goodbye for Now, Grandma

Grandma in her stylin' shades and rose carved coral necklace.
I went to our ward talent show tonight.  I performed a bluegrass number with a bunch of friends.  I came home and had pizza with my roommies.  They went to the hot tub, and now I'm alone in my apartment.

Today was a Friday.  It was a lot like many other Fridays I've lived.  Except today my grandma died.  

I'm not even sure what I'm feeling.  Listening to Bon Iver is good for times like that, when you want to listen to silence.  
My grandma, or Gaga as we used to call her when we were little (yes, before Lady Gaga made it cool;) played a large role in my life, probably larger than most Grandmas.  I said goodbye to her just a few days ago for the last time in this life.

She was almost 70 when I was born.  She came to Tennessee to see me.  She would tell me about when I was born.  The nurse didn't know she was my grandma, and she wouldn't let her see me!  But she was my grandma alright, no one could doubt that in years to come.

We moved to Salt Lake to live with her when I was about 4.  I remember being a little shy of her and asking my mom why we were coming here and she told me that Grandma was lonely.  I remember walking down the hall of our little house and looking at the paintings on display like a museum, painted by her sister. I remember seeing the gold thread in the curtains and wondering how it was made into thread.  

She explained it to me.  She explained a lot of things to me.  Grandma and I were thick as thieves.  We had our own little world that nobody else really got.  Most of that world happened in the early morning.  She would wake me up early to garden.  She was a wonderful gardener.  She could cultivate and prune anything.  I took it for granted that everyone's gardens were just as beautiful and successful.:)  

She taught me how to put my thumb over the hose to get a good spray.  Sometimes she would make "rainbows" for me to run under when the sun came up over the mountains.  She taught me how to fertilize, keep away aphids, and prune roses.  I don't have any pictures of those mornings.  It wasn't for anyone.  It was just for us.

She was the president of the Salt Lake Garden Club.  She had awards for beautiful and innovative arrangements she created.  There's a tree in a park downtown that has a plaque with her name on it.  When my Dad was little, he tied a knot in one of the saplings there, thinking someone would undo his prank.  Instead, you can still see that tree, now much bigger than him, with a beautiful, twisted knot right in the middle of the trunk:)

Grandma would tell me the names of the plants and flowers we saw when we went for walks.  She would explain nature and science to me.  She fed my curiosity for the way things work. She never got tired of answering and asking questions. When she was first out of school, she was a lab technician, in a time when women didn't work, let alone in the field of science.  I think she is the one who first introduced me to my love of science.  She had an encyclopedia collection (before Google:)  If I had a question about something and she didn't know, she'd have me pick out the right encyclopedia and bring it over to her bed and we'd look it up.  I loved those encyclopedias, probably a little outdated even then, with their black and white pictures and explanations of the world and the way things worked. 

She would play word games and "I Spy" with me and, at the time, two other sisters.  We'd lie in her bed.  It would smell like summer.  I would always pick something on the cuckoo clock to spy.  That clock was a little annoying, but I loved it.  She hung it crooked so it wouldn't tick and cuckoo, but if I asked, she'd straighten it up and play with the hands so it would cuckoo for the hour.  The little bird would come out and chirp.  A song would play and little dutch dancers would move around in a circle and the weights shaped like pine cones would move up and down.  

She was tender.  She would help me fill up every square of my waffle with syrup, because she knew I liked it.  She would just rest her hand on my shoulder when she stood behind me.  She would let me watch her put on her makeup and take out her curlers and let me try on her old-fashioned gloves and jewelry. 

Her two sons and their families at a reunion.  I'm in front.
About when I was in middle school, we started noticing some changes in Grandma.  By the time I hit high school, it was clear that she was having some mental health problems.  She was always healthy and very smart and loving, but she started getting very strange ideas and doing strange things.  It got stressful for our family.  She would get very paranoid and yell.  She quietly and slowly asked Leslie and I one time in the beginning, "I'm going crazy, aren't I?"  Eventually, she was diagnosed with psychosis and later dementia.  It was hard for me to understand how the grandma I loved so much was becoming my largest source of stress and worry. It got worse until about my senior year in high school she was no longer there.  She could talk, but she didn't know what she was saying.  She didn't remember who we were.  She grew helpless over the next few years and my family took more and more care of her.

Me and Gaga
And today she passed.  She got what she's been asking for for the last five years over and over, "I want to go home."  And now she is:)  She'll be watching over us, I know that for sure.  She'll be our guardian angel. 
I know I don't remember everything exactly the way it was.  I know I was little when I got to see the real her.  I can't wait until the time comes that I get to see her again.  What will we talk about?  I don't know.  Maybe I'll ask her if she can help me thread a needle or teach me a new knot.  Maybe we'll talk about photosynthesis, or turgor pressure.  We might talk about optical nerves, or I'll ask her to play the left hand of my piano music.  We might cook something.  Although, this time one of us will have a little more expertise;)  I loved my grandma to death.  She was a quiet woman, with an inner world that was fascinating, but not everyone got to see it.  Full of dawn and dew, pine sap and creativity.  Maybe I'm just a little like her.:) Maybe that's why I love her so much.  
Grandma with Uncle Sam

I love you grandma.  Until we meet again:)

1 comment:

  1. You are a good writer. You and your dad inherited that from your grandma. I cried reading this because you captured so much.