Well, you know how dreams are.
So I was packing up and heading out the door when my Grandma caught my arm. She was sitting right there by the door, in the same position I've watched her sit for years (even after the stroke. even after the broken neck). She grabbed my arm so that I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye. When I leaned down to kiss her, I noticed that her legs weren't quite as thin anymore. That her hair, though showing more grey, was perfectly coiffed. That she looked well. Strong. Healthy. As I was saying goodbye to her, I thought in my head that I wouldn't get to see her as often because I'd be further away, but that I'd still be coming down every week or so with my Dad. I thought to myself, "say that to her," but I did not say that. Rather, I said, "I love you Grandma." She kissed me and told me that she loved me.
And then Jakie woke me up. So, per my usual, I stumbled into his room to scoop him out of his bed. Just as I plopped myself down in his rocking chair, our telephone rang.
It's never good when your phone rings that early in the morning. It's also never good when your phone rings that early in the morning and the upstairs receiver is broken.
My poor little Jakie must have gotten really shaken up as we trotted down the stairs, getting to the phone just in time to miss my mom's message. The message that said, "I'm so sorry to leave this on your machine, but Grandma died last night. Please call me."
The next few minutes were a blur of activity as I rushed back upstairs, grabbed the cell phone, and alternated frustrations as my mom and I were both trying to call each other at the same time and kept getting each other's voicemail. While I got, at the very least, a sympathetic voice on my answering machine, my poor husband got the news from his harried wife who barely had her head on straight.
"Who was that? What happened?"
"Mom. Grandma died last night."
I've never seen him shoot out of bed so quickly. I think that part of me has been expecting this for so long now that I was ready for it and ready to get down to business and take care of whatever needed to be taken care of. Then there was the other part of me was so shocked and caught off-guard about it that emotion got pushed out of the way while I tried to figure out what to do and what to make of it.
Perhaps it was an up to an hour later when that emotion finally found it's way out, and a 30-year old mommy, reading to her toddler who awoke from all of the activity, started sobbing during that part in "The Little Engine That Could" when the train "all of a sudden stopped with a jerk. She simply could not go another inch." It was then that Tim and I sat on my bed, embracing. Sobbing. What a ridiculously strange moment - to be expecting something for so long....to even be praying for it... and yet to be caught so off guard by it.
I had just sat with her last week. The day after her appointment with her doctor in which he informed her that "everything checks out. We'll see you in 6 months." I had just laughed with her while sharing the story of how Christopher walked into the pole. I had just sympathized with her while listening again to her saga of being kidnapped, always waking up in a new bed or a new hospital, and wondering how it was that I always seemed to find her no matter where they'd taken her. I had just kissed her on the forehead and told her that I'd be back to see her again next week.
And then Monday night, she drank her six o'clock coffee and went to sleep. No more stories about Chris and Jake. No more worries about getting kidnapped or running away or suing the nursing home over her broken legs (all of which, of course, never happened). No more visit next week. Instead, I will make my weekly visit to the nursing home tomorrow morning, and when I walk out the door, I'll be carrying her purse. Her clothing. Her TV. And her big, warm, beautiful blanket that my brother and his wife had just brought her for Christmas - a blanket which she always commented on. "Isn't it beautiful? It's SO WARM." When I walk out that door tomorrow, there will be no, "I'll see you next week." There will be no return to 265 Acacia Ave. - the home where she only lived for two weeks.
These past four months have been exhausting. They have been challenging in ways I could not anticipate, and have been SO JOYFUL, SO FUN, in others. During this time, I have not only learned how to love my Grandma (hopefully a lesson that I'll carry into my other relationships) but I have learned WHO SHE IS. I met a woman who, on a good day, had the biggest, brightest, most childlike smile you have ever seen - a woman who could spit nails on a bad one. Without this time - without these challenges - I know that the memories that would be pervading my mind today would be of those shooting nails. No smile. No joy. Just drama and anger that had developed over years and years of family discord. Without this time, though it seems awful to say, I would not miss my grandma.
But we did have this time. I did get to stand by her bedside three months ago while she was suffering that awful stroke. I did get to hold her hand and sit next to her while she told me that she "had a terrible dream last night. And you know, nightmares are supposed to be over by midnight...but this one was so bad that it just kept going." I did get to sit with her and my dad as they had two very peaceful, dare I say, joyful visits - two of only a handful of visits over the last twenty years. I did get to pray with her and for her, even though I don't think she was conscious of it. And I did get to introduce her to her second great-grandson and sit with her while she held my Jacob on her lab and gave Christopher a high-five.
These are the things I will remember about my Grandmother. She told me once, when talking about her husband and how sick he was when he died, "I have only good memories." How grateful am I to be able to say the same.
Lillian Julia Quinn
March 9, 1921 ~ January 20, 2009
Eternal Rest, grant unto her, Oh Lord.
And may Perpetual Light Shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.