My grandmother died somewhere around 14 years ago. I realized that this evening while I was reading something regarding the Lilo and Stitch movie. Why do these two things connect for me? When I was 8, I think, my grandparents moved to Honolulu. And I was blessed with being able to visit them a number of times, staying with them in their home facing the ocean high up on the mountainside above Honolulu.
My grandmother had a stroke when I was 14, and they moved to Tampa. But before then, when I would visit them, my grandmother had this way of infusing her deeply Southern, open-hearted, open-minded, strong-willed personality into my heart.
She was strong and stern and funny and full of hugs. Lots of hugs.
I miss her something powerful . I keep finding myself saying things that I want to tell her. Things she’s missed over the last 14 years. So I thought I would purge. Put this down out there so I could stop saying it over and over to myself, wishing she could hear me.
It’s been 14 years. I can still smell the plumerias when I think of you. I will always associate those flowers and hibiscus with you because of your garden. I find myself putting flowers in Sophie’s hair and thinking of you. Behind her left ear to show she’s still unmarried. You smelled like fresh air and sunshine and Grandma Mac and I miss that smell.
I had that little girl you promised me when I was holding onto the last thread of hope. When you dropped those dimes in my shoes at the doctor’s office 6 years after you died just to tell me that you were still there and to not give up. My little girl… she’s a little bad@$$. I know you don’t approve of my cussing, but you must have been there through her whole cancer fight. You always told me not to be afraid to say what I feel. Well, there are some things that are only expressed appropriately with curse words, like her beating cancer. So yeah… she’s a bad@$$.
She’s so funny. And she has your little expressive eyebrow movements. And sometimes your tone of voice. And your brass balls. (again, sorry, but hey… it’s how I feel). She’s a true Box Woman. And I’m so proud of her.
Oh, and I had a little boy. Grandma, you’d be so impressed with the sweet little boy I have. He loves hugs and kisses, just like you did when we were kids. He likes to give kisses, lots of kisses. he’s the most affectionate child. And when I ask him for a dime, he will run up and kiss me straight on the lips. He likes his eggs scrambled, but not the way that I make them. He likes them the way that you used to make them… so I’ve pulled on your attempts to teach me to cook. I’ve failed a number of times, but hey… I’m trying.
Vivi was named for you. Well… sorta. Even you can’t blame me for not going with Velma in 2015. But she has your middle name and your initials. And pure joy. She is pure joy and soft squishy baby, and I know how much you loved babies.
You’d be so proud of them, grandma. They are all such sweet, good kids, no matter how much I joke and say that they are little evil minions.
I miss you. I’m not as good at being a lady as you would like. I know that I curse too much. And I’m crass. But even you have to admit, in my field, you can either play with the boys and play their game, or duck low and watch them all fly over your head. You taught me to NEVER let the boys beat me because of something I let slide. So I’m not letting it slide. I play their game. And I’m good at it. But I’m still kind and open minded and caring for the people around me. And I like to think they think I’m good at what I do and someone they can rely on.
I went to Hawaii again sometime before Sophie was born, with Daniel. And we had fun, but it wasn’t the same. The state is missing you. And it’s missing Grandpa. Going to historical sites just felt wrong without him there explaining the stories to me or asking me questions. Going to the beach didn’t feel right without you asking me if I had everything I needed, asking me about my suntan lotion, questioning me about the appropriateness of my swimsuit, telling me to be safe, to not stay in the water too long, to watch out for the turtles.
Oh yeah, Daniel. You remember him. You met him a few times before you left us. You weren’t able to talk too clearly after your stroke, but he totally understood you. And he still says that you were a force of nature. He saw the spark in you that made you someone to reckon with. And he laughs sometimes when I get flustered and exasperated with something. He says I sound like you did when you were frustrated. I’m okay with that. I think you’d be impressed with the man I married. I wish I could have gotten your opinion or some words of advice about marriage. But I’ll talk to you about it when I see you again.
I tell the kids about you. Where you come from. Where you met Grandpa. The story of how he took one look at you and couldn’t leave Tennessee without you. How he looked like an Andy Rooney look alike standing next to a Hollywood Starlet in those photos. I tell them about your garden and your books and your art and history lessons from Grandpa. I want you back. It hurts to know they will never know you. It hurts that they will never know Grandpa. You want to make me cry? Remind me that my children were robbed of you both.
I hope that I live this life well enough to see you again. There are days I wonder, but I’m trying.
Give Grandpa a kiss for me and tell him I’m giving his great grand-babies a love of history and music for him. His great granddaughter wants to be a paleontologist… or a zoologist… or a veterinarian for bats and owls and lizards. And she plays the Ukulele and piano and guitar.She’s got so much of you both in her that it makes me smile.
I miss you, Grandma. Thank you for giving me a piece of you. Aloha, Grandma.
I love you.