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This week my grandmother passed away. She was 84 years old. Her heart gave out and she passed peacefully in her sleep.
We called my grandmother Nanny. I am not sure I even knew her real name for years. She was part of the team known as Papa and Nanny. We lost my Papa about 15 years ago in a car accident. And I can’t help thinking that a part of her faded away then.
Nanny was my primary grandmother, the kind of grandmother that knows with one look just what you need. My grandparents lived only two miles away from me for most of my childhood, and I saw them at least once a week if not more. They were an integral part of my youth.
Of course we had the big memories of Christmases and Fourth of July cookouts. But for me it is in between moments I most cherish. I have early memories of standing in her lap playing with her glasses and exploring every inch of her face with my fingers. She taught me how to play rummy, which way to deal the cards, and how to create a strategy that could lead to a win.
It was her house we went to if we got sick at school. She would make me cinnamon sugar toast and sit me on the couch to watch the Price Is Right and the Young and the Restless. She would always French braid my hair and let me dig through the flea market stash kept in my grandparents closet.
I remember when Nanny was baptized at our church. And how every Sunday my family would pick her up to take her with us. I’d slide over to the middle seat as she climbed in the car. Then later, when I was in high school I’d pick her up for church, and we’d talk about school and the week’s teenage drama.
Nanny was a listener, an observer, a rocker of babies, and maker of peanut butter and chocolate cake. She was a walker who drug grandchildren through the woods spotting the changing leaves in the fall and the wildflowers in the spring. She loved to read and carried a quiet wisdom.
Nanny was an introvert, not unlike my 6 year-old daughter, Grace Florence, who shares her name.
The last time I saw Nanny, she took a ring off her finger and pressed it into my palm. “This is for Grace since you named her after me. I want you to keep it for her.” I kissed her cheek and said my good-bye. That was over two years ago. After moving out west a decade ago, I didn’t see her much. I wasn’t there to watch her health fail. I have to cling to those early memories. The long walks, late night rummy games, French braids, and cinnamon sugar toast. Those sweet grandmotherly memories I hope will pass from our generation to the next.
My grandmother lost her mom when she was a young child. I cannot imagine the hole that left in her heart. The whisper of suffering she must have carried throughout her life. I don’t know what heaven is like. But, I hope that when Nanny’s soul entered heaven that her mom was waiting to greet her. I hope that her mother cupped Nanny’s face in her hands and said, “Welcome home my baby, I’ve been waiting for you.”|