I can't just dip my toe in this though. I can't just write all of the posts I kept meaning to write in real-time about things like visits with my grandmother. The joy on her face when we would visit, the selfies I insisted on taking every time I guess to prove that we still had her. And then she was gone. It still doesn't seem real to me three weeks later. I would still like to share the moments that are more precious than ever, but not just yet. For now I would like to thank all of you for the kind comments you left any time I posted about my grandmother, and share with you the words I spoke at her funeral.
I have never been very good at good-byes of any kind really. This one we have said to my grandmother has been long-parceled out as we lost bits and pieces of her. Sometimes these losses made it easy to mistakenly underestimate her strength. Ninety-eight years? I definitely was guilty of underestimating her.
One thing I did see correctly was my grandmother's powerful mind. As a five year old child, I remember a time, when I felt I had been wronged, and stuck my tongue out at my grandmother...behind my hand...from about ten feet away...while she was busily washing dishes at the sink-perhaps a rather cowardly stand to begin with, so imagine the lump in my throat when she said "Andrea, don't stick your tongue out at me."
She was a knower of things, maybe telling us things we weren't always ready to hear. She loved each of us fiercely, wanting what she thought was best, wanting to protect us. Sure, that might have felt smothering at times, until I could step back far enough to feel gratitude. Thankful that she helped us build characters that not only she could be proud of, but that each of us could take our own pride in.
Forgiveness and the importance of truth were values instilled in me when I was very young. Through the years there have been times I have found myself frustrated by my intolerance for lies or for repeatedly suffering the same fools, as they can be such commonplace occurrences. Over time though, I have become ever so grateful to have that demand for truth to be such a large part of me, while I do still struggle with the fine art of forgiveness. My grandmother's standards for herself were no lower-all the way from how she dressed for every occasion to the impeccable house she kept.
My grandmother continued teaching me ways to be my best self even still over the past few years. Much of that time she may have been the only person who got to see that version of me. She helped me find a patience I was not aware that I had, forced me to just slow down to breathe once in awhile, and to choose to find joy even if it was simply a head on my shoulder or a warm hand in mine.
Sadly, I have not exactly been able to emulate her sense of fashion, nor do I keep my house as tidy as I ought to. There are many other lessons that will always stick with me though, such as being wary of hanging icicles and the perils of sleeping with a wet head of hair (bedhead was not the fear, but rather pneumonia). It is also important for each of us to nourish our minds with knowledge, our hearts with love, and our bodies with so SO many cookies.
Perhaps you'd like to join me in finding some comfort in the the thought of my grandfather greeting my grandmother, telling her "We've been waiting for you, Benchie."
This was our last visit, when I got to say good-bye, and could not give up the photo.