I apologize for my silence this past week. Last Wednesday I received the sort of phone call you never hope to answer. And my world stopped. I rushed home in time to have three final days with my dear, precious Grandma before she went to Heaven. These left few days have left me numb, hurt and sad, but finally, last night I was able to put words down on paper and the process was immeasurably cathartic. If you like, here’s why my Grandma Gotta was so indelibly special to me:
When I think of my Grandmother Fern Ann I can’t help but feel warmth, comfort and remarkable joy. Joy strong enough to lift my heavy heart as I remember the gentle force of her presence. Her blonde curls, sparkling blue eyes and quiet step. Her enviable beauty mark and her genuine smile which could brighten the darkest room. Some say we bear a resemblance (the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given) and I can only hope to grow in beauty like she did.
As a shy and quiet child, trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s were a special treat; a time where I felt more like a woodland sprite than a little girl who still wet the bed. After a day of swimming in the blue-green water, catching minnows and maybe a sunburn, Grandma would wrap Maria and me in towels and take us up to the bathtub to get clean. Sudsy, sleepy and wholly content I’d trace the blue-tiled walls with my wrinkled fingers, not fully aware of just how preciously I was cared for. Next, it was time for stories and, dressed in our favorite nightgowns with our hair still damp, Grandma would read us stories in her soft, crackling lilt. I’d choose the same stories again and again—The Town and Country Mouse and The Three Little Kittens—but Grandma never seemed the least bit impatient or hurried.
When I think of Grandma, the aroma of fresh from the oven blueberry muffins fills the air and I can easily picture her precisely-set table. The blue-rimmed plates resting in perfect symmetry, the blinds open to views of her beloved garden and the green sweep of the yard. The delicious sense of anticipation as we waited for the bountiful feast she had so lovingly prepared.
When I think of Grandma, twenty-five years of birthdays, Christmases and football games come to mind, blurring into an almost indescribable feeling of lightness. Born two days and 58 years apart, Grandma and I would celebrate our birthdays together, sitting side by side, blowing out our birthday candles with expectation for what could only be a golden year ahead. Septembers with Grandma always felt rich and full. With football games starting and Gotta birthday parties peaking, we’d knew we’d see lots of each other. A happy secret we shared with relish.
I wish I could bottle the tangible magic of Christmases on Pelican. The glory of Grandma’s tree, bedecked with the shine of precious ornaments and silvery tinsel, filled the whole upstairs in beauty. The tenderly-wrapped presents were always almost too pretty to open, but I managed somehow and always opened exactly what I had hoped for.
Above all, when I think of Grandma, I think of a woman with a servant’s heart, endless love and the self-confidence to live her best life. She knew the elusive, rare art of living well and shared it with her family and loved ones in great abundance. She understood that the little things are the big things—the perfect slice of blueberry pie on a hot July day, hours in the garden pulling weeds to let her marvelous snapdragons grow; the thrill of a new dress and, most importantly to her, the weighty love of the handsome husband beside her.
Anyone who knows my Grandma knows she was an excellent cook and gifted gardener, but what I hope most to emulate is her joie di vivre. Grandma was interested in my life, in all her grandkids’ lives. She was never less than present, engaged and interested. She made me feel important and valuable. She knew that life could be beautiful and fascinating and hard and she never shied away from it. Many people would call my Grandmother busy and, active though she was, she was never less than generous with her time. Whether enjoying a cup of coffee together or drinking in sunshine on the porch, time with Grandma had a limitless, expansive quality. She was as efficient and studious as they come, yet lavishly gave of her time.
May 10th, 2014 was, to my earthly wishes, much too soon to say goodbye, but I know that the richness and depth of Grandma’s legacy will make the difficult days and weeks ahead easier to bear. I know she has already found a patch of land in Heaven and is rolling up her sleeves to create a garden that, like her legacy, will never fade.
Thank you for listening, everyone.