Thursday, October 13, 2016

Last week, in the quiet stillness of her home, I held my grandma’s hand as she took her last breath. My grandma was my favorite person. She was there when I was born, undoubtedly one of the first to hold me and tell me she loved me. From the very beginning, we shared a special bond that only grandmothers and granddaughters share, especially those who have the same name.

My grandma Mary Ann was the one who taught me how to swim in the freezing cold water of the lake place in early summer…because grandma and I would never say the water was too cold. We’d sip on sun tea and watch the sunset with lightning bugs dancing around us and the sound of cicadas keeping me up way past my bedtime.

Grandma was my favorite shopping buddy. We would shop-’til-we dropped, and Grandma would spoil me with “regular-priced” goodies that kept me looking pretty cool. And Grandma always looked pretty cool herself. She had the best wardrobe and always looked so put together, no matter where she was going. With those big, brown eyes, gorgeous white hair and sweet demeanor, she turned heads wherever she went.

We attended numerous ballets, and saw many productions together. For a few years when I was little, we had a tradition of seeing The Nutcracker at Christmastime. We were frequent visitors of the Nelson-Atkins and expert ice cream connoisseurs, spending way too much time picking out our favorite flavor at Baskin Robins when we’d both always settle on the same thing we’d always get. We went to high tea dressed in our fanciest clothes, and we picked blueberries until we were purple from head to toe. She was kind, loving and would do anything for me.

Grandma was at every dance performance, every game, every school musical, every birthday celebration and every important day of my life. She was my biggest cheerleader and supporter. If I didn’t think I could do something or wouldn’t be very good at this or that, she had a way of convincing me otherwise.

She knew no stranger. She loved to talk, and anyone who was in her presence for any given amount of time would quickly become a friend. I definitely got the gift of gab from my grandma, and even when she couldn’t have a conversation with me any longer because of Alzheimer’s, I knew she loved listening to me talk to her when she’d smile in response or tell me I was pretty.

As I got older, my grandma was the one to send me postcards and care packages while I was away at school. When I became an adult, the birthday cards came in the mail and eventually, they would come a few days late until they stopped coming altogether. It is heartbreaking to watch someone you love so much, someone you have so many memories with, struggle to even remember your name – our name.

She loved with her whole heart and thought the world of her family. She was there when my baby boy was born, and she was so proud and happy to be a great-grandma. That little boy could do no wrong in her eyes…she even willingly held his hand as he gave her a tour of the backyard dog poop at my parent’s house when he was about two. It didn’t matter that they were looking at poop; what mattered to her was that little Michael was so excited to tell her all about it.

When I was a little girl, I remember my mom telling me that there was no one in this world who loved me like my grandma loved me. I never forgot that. She was there for my beginning and I was there for her end. We have a bond that surely will carry on, as I know she is still my cheerleader, still my supporter and still my best friend. I will cherish the memories I have of her, and I will do my best to live up to our name.

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