When I was a little girl the woman terrified me. She was loud and larger than life. She had things to do and we stayed out of her way. Occasionally she would find me across the room and call me by name. When I would look up she would be pointing at me with her long finger and then tell me to “come”. She would have something special in mind, always. It would be something she just remembered she was going to show me or a hidden treasure she would pull out of her junk drawer. She was fascinating.
We would fight because I was 10 and she was so stubborn. I locked myself into her bathroom one visit because she wouldn’t apologize to me. She never did. My Dad ended up persuading me to leave the room and I wanted to store bitterness in my heart. But somehow I ended up at the counter in the kitchen. Tired and pissed she made me cinnamon toast that tasted so good it could have come from heaven. It was her peace offering and we made up just by eating. That was her way.
At sixteen I flew by myself to Michigan and stayed with my grandparents. I was caught up in moving to another state and figuring out who my friends were and how to get along with my Mom. My grandma and I stayed up talking until 4:00 in the morning. She listened to me for hours and I knew I was no longer just a kid in her eyes. She really saw me. That night we became friends.
It is common knowledge that I am not medically inclined. So at the age of 20 faced with the news I had to have my wisdom teeth removed my Grandma took me in. She fluffed my pillows; she iced me down, and wrapped me up. She gave me my meds on time and checked on me and checked on me. I realized that if you wanted to have Arlene’s undivided attention then get sick and soak it all in. But then get well soon – because she can tell if you’re faking.
I knew when my Grandma hated something or someone. Everyone did. She was horrible at hiding her immediate thoughts and I don’t think she was born with a filter. So when I was 23 and brought home the love of my life I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. Turns out I made a good choice because Grandma and Justin hit it off. She loved him so much and remembered things about him. She went out of her way to make him smile and feel like part of our family. She was genuinely happy for us and the family we made.
When I was 30 we picked up and moved to Washington. It was a bold move and one I did out of just pure courage. I was knee deep in being a Mom, trying to cook good meals, keep a nice house, and run a business. Without fail every Thursday afternoon my phone would ring and it was Grandma. She would say “Hello” in that voice of hers and everything would just feel right. I could hear her light her cigarette so I would settle in. We would chat about cleaning products and baking bread. She would tell me about a new book by my favorite author. It was hard to say good-bye then.
It is even harder to say good-bye now.
I often wrestle with how to have it all. To be a wife, a mother, have a career. My Grandma did all those things and she is living proof that life is complicated and messy. There is loss and tragedy and hurt but there is also much beauty in laughter and in the Everyday. She really lived and in the end I believe she considered it all Good.