in memory

grandma willson

Lois Annabelle Welch willson

I would sneak up to Grandma and Grandpa’s trailer when the dew was still on the grass.  Grandpa would be fixing something outside, Grandma was still in her cotton pajamas making toast.  Every time I’d go, I knew it was a little too early for visitors.  But I loved seeing their slow mornings, the reality of an every day life.  Time was a plentiful resource for them, they didn’t hustle and bustle about like I do every day.  And time was always spent on talking and telling stories.  The morning would start out chilly, but by the time I walked back down the dirt road the day had warmed up.  Just like my heart.

I have snippets, like vague photographs of my father’s mother.  We didn’t spend every day with them, but every moment counted.  One weekend when I was very young, I went to stay with Grandma.  She had paper dolls to play with and strange toys that I wasn’t sure who they belonged to.  One time she gave me a couple coins to go next door to the 7-11 and get a Slurpee.  I had never had one of those fake, sweet and delicious concoctions before.  I think it changed my life.

Dad would always take us up to their place after dinner when we were at the lake. We’d walk up the dirt road in the dark, sticking close to him and listening to the crunch of rocks under our feet.  The only light was at the top of the hill.  As we’d enter the house, we would find Grandma in her chair watching baseball and Grandpa tinkering with an old radio out on the porch.  The tv would quickly be turned off and we’d sit and listen for hours to them talk.  Waiting patiently for the time when Grandma would get up and head towards the deep freeze.  Ice cream was always a promise delivered.  She would scoop us each bowls from the giant tub of vanilla with the chocolatey swirls.  I would let mine melt and eat the soup-like mixture long after my sister and brother had finished theirs.

One thing I can say with clarity is the presence of love that I was enveloped in when spending time with Grandma.  She not only gave it, but it was interwoven into the tapestries of stories that she would share about our heritage and family.  She adored her mother and father, with a respect I’m not sure that we see very much in my generation.  Grandma was a youngest like me.  She always believed that her sister Eulalie got the brains of the family and would often express her gratitude for how her sister helped her learn.  She had a couple best friends that would send the same birthday card to each other every year.  Her friends called her Louie.  My sister calls me that too.

Grandma would tap on the table with her right hand and made a clicking noise when she talked.  And I always got a little embarrassed when she would ask me if I had to “piddle” before we left.  These small details are things that I reach for to create a memory in my mind to log away for later.  I wish I could remember every story she told me, like the fiddle my Great Grandpa would play or the time Uncle PJ sleep walked on the upstairs porch at the house in Sunfield.  But as a kid, you only half-listen because you aren’t aware that there will be a day when you will want to tell someone else.

More than these stories, was the undeniable thread that tied me to my father through my Grandmother.  Danny, as she called him, was her son and her pride for him stretched from the Earth to the moon.  She gave me access to understand my dad even after he passed.  For a number of years, she was one of very few people who weren’t afraid to say his name. She would tell me stories about how he used to tease Aunt Diana or the time when Grandma Great chucked a roll at my dad across the table because he asked her to pass him one.  I think he forgot to say please.  I always felt that my father was still alive when I would go to that trailer and listen to her talk.  And there were so many times when I needed that.

When I brought my husband to meet them last summer, I was eager for him to experience the love that I knew she would so easily extend to him.  Sure enough, as we walked up the path, Grandma was waiting on the other side of the screen door waving with tears in her eyes.  We sat for hours on that golden yellow couch and I felt that familiar scratch of the afghan on my back.  She was older and her mind had started to go, but that seed of love continued to grow inside her.  And even though I’m not sure she even remembered that visit, I know in those moments she had added Mike to her list of grandchildren and was already creating a spot on her shelf for a picture of him.

Grandma and Grandpa had a love for each other that could move mountains.  She always had a sparkle in her eye when she would tell about how he asked her to dance at that hotel in Florida.  I would always try to imagine the music playing and the dress she was wearing when their eyes met for the first time across the dance floor.  This young love, however, was nothing compared to the warmth I felt watching them hold hands and Grandma giving Grandpa a kiss on the top of his head as she set his sandwich on the table before him.  I’m sure there were arguments and rough patches, but I have always been inspired by the lasting love that I witnessed.

Mike and I were lying in bed last night and tears were slipping out of the corners of my eyes.  He drew my face close to his and said, “just think honey, if we are as lucky as your Grandparents, we have nearly sixty years of love ahead of us.”  And I tried to imagine staring into his wrinkled face years from now and having to possibly say goodbye.  But the greenness of our love makes this a painful and unfathomable thought.  I hope that as Grandpa said his goodbyes last night to his wife, he was able to have peace knowing that the years he had with her were filled with family, love and memories.  And I pray that this will help him through the great loss of his other half.

With each person that passes, the shock of it all slowly dissipates as I grow more accepting of this certain reality.  But the sting of death is still there, making me mourn for those who had my Grandma in their every day life.  Where her fixture will be a gaping hole for a while.  Yet, just like she filled the room with love and acceptance, her memories will serve that same purpose.  Filling the holes in our hearts and reminding us that there is no greater thing but love.  I love you Grandma and I will miss you.

© 2011 D. Willson

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