When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived about an hour away. My mom couldn’t tell me when they were coming to visit (which was happily quite often) until they were on their way out the door; if she told me sooner, I’d drive her crazy asking when “Gaimom” (I had a hard time with r’s apparently) was getting here. As soon as I heard they were on their way, I frantically ran around the house collecting an enormous pile of my favorite books. I’d then sit in the picture window behind the sofa and wait for their car, refusing to give up my watch for a second. As soon as they pulled into the driveway, I’d jump up and stand by the door with my stack of books. Grandmom would walk in, kiss me, and sit down without even taking off her coat, so that I could joyously plop into her lap. She never objected to my demands that she read to me immediately. These are some of my earliest memories, and I’ve always credited her with my love of reading.
My grandmother was a remarkable woman. She always fascinated me with her strength. I can remember laughing as a child when she opened a jar my father and grandfather couldn’t, making fun of them for being so weak. She taught aerobics until a month before her diagnosis with lung cancer (despite being legally blind), and was regularly featured in her local paper in recent years for some feat or another. Helen told it like it was, and she was always making me laugh. “Michelle, I tell the fat ones they’re not going to get thin, it’s too late for that.” What’s funny was, in her honesty, it was nearly impossible to get angry with her. She was so warm, gave the greatest hugs, always exclaiming, “Ohhhhh, I love you,” as if the sheer force of her love made her arms give out from the might of expressing it. She never ceased to amaze me, knowing exactly when to laughter would alleviate tears. Minutes after leaving my father’s hospital room the night he passed, she cracked a joke in the elevator. To some it might seem callous, but to me it was perfect, as we all laughed out the stress and sadness we felt and the pain we were enduring. I never saw her cry, even when burying her son; the depth of her strength was incredible. She was so inspiring, so loving, so funny and kind to her friends and family.
A few months before my dad died, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. My grandmother had always crocheted when I was young, but she hadn’t picked it up in years. I asked her to make me a blanket years before my father’s death, and had completely forgotten about it. A few months after he passed, on my 21st birthday, she presented me with a hand-crocheted afghan. It is decidedly imperfect, full of holes with no ends woven in. The colors change halfway through, and she miscounted stitches at places, so it’s more amoeba than rectangle. It’s made from 100% acrylic yarn. I couldn’t believe she’d made it for me, that she’d sat for hours and hours crocheting by feel alone. I was so touched and surprised. Somewhere I have a photo of me and my grandmom on that birthday. I’m blowing out my candles, and she is standing behind me with her arms around my waist. I don’t think I’ve ever felt closer to her than I did that day. The blanket is , and always will be, one of my most prized possessions.
Grandmom passed early this morning. After months of suffering, she died peacefully, which is a comfort to me and my family. She will be missed, but she will never be forgotten. I couldn’t possibly fit all I feel, remember, and love about her in this space, but I will tell my children these stories as tribute. She was a good grandmom.