Some Things About My Grandma

I wrote this in June, and never published it. All still relevant, except that my Grandma had a birthday and is now 89.

When my grandma would visit when I was little, I’d crawl into her bed as soon as I woke up, and we would tell each other what we’d dreamed in the night.

No human being alive loves any one food the way that woman loves raspberries. She speaks of them with reverence. She never misses  a meal, does not snack, and has two cookies after dinner.

She taught herself to tap dance for her 80th birthday party. She wanted to learn something new. She wanted to put on a show for her friends. She wanted to make “80 years young” a thing. I heard she rocked it.

Well into her eighties, she took me on a trip to Eastern Europe. We swam off of cliffs in Dubrovnik, she in good leather sandals, which really were the worse for wear afterwards. No regrets on Grandma’s end.

She saves letters — all the letters my mom wrote, and the letters that I have written, letters upon letters from friends and family. She tells me my stack is the highest, and my heart breaks, feeling like I should have sent so many more.

Her father and grandmother were great teetotalers. The first time my Grandma was invited on a date to a bar, she ordered a Tom Collins without batting an eye. Now she likes to order Sex on the Beach. With a wink and a laugh. She thinks it is hysterical, an old lady ordering such a thing.

She danced more at my wedding than anyone there.

There are a million more things about my Grandma, like how, when my older brother was born, she used to go out after dinner and walk as fast as she could to try and escape how much she missed her first grandbaby, or how she worked while my Grandpa was in college, decades before woman breadwinners popped up in headlines, or how she loves me, just fucking loves me, or how she’s a fierce advocate for people with mental illness and their families, or how she does exercise videos taped off PBS 15 years ago, using soup cans as weights in a pinch. Margaret Richards forever. Or the smell of her laundry room, the smell of the garage in her old house, the way the air felt in those bedrooms, sun tea on the back porch, her curly handwriting, the first time I ever had homemade waffles, her silliness, sweet silliness. Little these things floating up.

I realized just today, even though she is 88 years old, that I always thought she’d live forever. She has whitewater-rafted in Utah, gone heli-hiking in Canada, traveled to Thailand, Turkey, China, boated down the Amazon and cruised through Europe. She’s ridden trains, planes, elephants. She’s danced her heart out. She’s kicked my ass at countless card games. So much to celebrate. As soon as I stitch myself up. My Grandma is sick, suddenly really sick, and she is alone, and it hurts like a gaping hole in my chest.

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