I’m spending the next four months with my grandma before I head off to Florida and the great adventure that awaits me at Disney. Until then I’m taking this time to really appreciate the time I have with her. I was fortunate enough to always be close to my grandparents. When I hear that someone isn’t close to their grandparents it’s hard for me to understand. I get the concept in an abstract way, but mine were so fundamental in shaping me into who I am today I couldn’t imagine not having that in my life.
I’ll explain the names and heritage before continuing on so no one gets confused. My dad’s mother is my granny, and her husband was my grandaddy, but I was never able to meet him as he died long before I was born when my dad was still a teenager. My mother’s parents are my grandma and pawpaw. I’m the oldest, so I was given the grand privilege of doling out names to all of the grandparents. You’re welcome.
I was raised by my granny. Even my parents acknowledge this. We lived right down the road from her when I was born.Even when we moved to North Carolina (only three hours away) she would visit often and I would scream and cry unless I got to go home with her. I won almost every time. She fed me my first solid food and taught me to walk on the strip of grass in the front yard next to her garden. She taught me to write. She put a pen in my hand and sat me at the kitchen table and taught me how to describe the sun streaming through the trees in the woods behind our house. She read all of my stories, the first one I wrote when I was seven. It’s still tucked away in a folder she kept of everything I ever did. My granny was my world. She died when I was fifteen. The news literally brought me to my knees because for the first time in my life I wasn’t living with her. Many different circumstances had caused me to move to Florida and live with my aunt and uncle. I was devastated. I even had to be hospitalized for part of my junior year due to depression. Now, that I’m older I realize how young fifteen is to loose someone, especially someone that was a parent. I think about all the things I wish I’d asked her, all the stories I’ll never hear, and recipes I can’t learn.
While I spent most of the year with my granny all of my summers were spent in West Virginia with my grandma and pawpaw. Things weren’t always perfect, but they’re tinted gold with age now. I learned to swim and fish and shoot on the seven acres they own. I ran free and camped out under the stars. I caught fireflies and made campfires. I learned a million things. The same week my granny died my pawpaw had major surgery. He had been diagnosed with mouth cancer and the surgery would remove his lower jaw and tongue. It was terrifying. The strong, powerful, invincible man I’d always known would now be eating through a tube in his stomach. When he spoke he was barely understandable. I was still too young to really grasp how precious the next years with him would be.
I was almost 22 when the cancer returned and he decided not to fight it. During the week break I had between semesters at college I was able to fly home and say goodbye. I laid beside him on the bed as the machines beeped and whirred around us. The respirator almost drowning out the sound of my voice as I told him all of my plans. The love of my life left me the week my pawpaw died because “I was too sad.” I’m just now getting over the anger I felt towards him for making a time I should’ve had to grieve over the death of my beloved pawpaw about him and his needs.
I’m writing about all of this because I know how precious this time is with my grandma. Every year I get older she does too. And being here now it’s more apparent than ever. She’s more forgetful, can’t hear very well, walks slower than I’m used to, and everything else that comes with age. She’s by no means feeble. She rides her bike and does her stretches every morning. She runs a house and seven acres all on her own. But there’s moments when I’m reminded she won’t be here forever. I’m trying to spend this time wisely. Ask the questions I want to ask, tell her all the things I want and need to tell her.
So we make applesauce and cookies. We find no recipes to try together. We clean out the basement, which I’m pretty sure we’ve been cleaning out my entire life. We read books and learn new things together. We go to the movies. We talk about pawpaw. I want to do everything I can to be with my grandma right now because I’ve learned and I know that she won’t always be here.