My first words were "Shut up, Gramma," said when left with her for the afternoon and she chattered away at me in a playpen. At least that is family legend. My grandmother was sort of notoriously difficult, stubborn, controlling.
Notice I say was.
She died Sunday morning. Early. And, against all of our hopes, alone. She lasted a little over ten months after my grandfather, her husband of sixty-four years, died. This is what she wanted so badly. She hasn't been well, well ever, at least not as long as I have been alive. She was a childhood survivor of polio, morbidly obese and had all those attending illnesses.
I loved her. Love her. She was one of the most frustrating people I ever met. She forced herself into a life much smaller than she had to have. She spent many years shut into her own home. But she was also generous--took care of all of her in-laws' children, loved all of us so much. Her life was small but it was the one she chose.
She was a terrible cook but a gifted baker. I regret never learning to make a dozen or so types of cookies. But she lost the use of her hands again to the polio symptoms before we were all ready. And was stuck in a wheelchair before we knew it.
Their house had this smell and this unchanging look to it. Everything stayed the same. When they cleaned out the house after my grandfather died my sister put some linens into a plastic bag for me. I took a hit off the smell yesterday and cried. There is no trace of that smell with a person in the world anymore.
She loved my daughter. So much. Much more than I could really imagine since she only got to see her a couple of times. But I would write her letters about what she was doing (she liked letters more than calls because she could re-read them and then read them to her visitors) and send her pictures. She told me her great grandchildren were her only reason to live. She held on to see my cousin's daughter. I had hoped she would hold on to see my sister's son--the one named for my grandpa--but I just don't think she could.
I am honestly surprised how devastated I feel. Just sad and lonely in a way that doesn't make sense. I hope that she has peace now, whatever that is. I hope that she was right, and that she will be with my grandfather. And I hope we all make it through.