I got the call Tuesday morning that my grandma died. I knew immediately when I saw my mom’s name pop up on my caller ID. My mom usually never calls me while I’m at work and my grandma hadn’t been doing well the past week or so.
It didn’t really hit me right away. I was sad, but I didn’t immediately burst into tears. She had lived a long life (she was 90!) and she had been in a lot pain the last couple months with various illnesses, and now she was finally with my grandpa again. I went back to my desk and my coworker asked if I was alright, and I was.
My grandma, as well as the rest of my dad’s side of the family, lives in western Pennsylvania, which is about an 11-12 hour drive. My parents and my sister drove up on Wednesday, but I didn’t head up until Thursday with my other two brothers and Andrew since we had to work. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, which is always a good thing. It was a bit long, but it wasn’t anything I’m not used to since our family has always taken long road-trips to Florida and Pennsylvania.
All of my dad’s family met up at my grandma’s house for dinner on Thursday night. It was so good to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins, some of which hadn’t seen in a long time. We found a bunch of old photo albums and pictures of my grandma’s and we had such a good time going through them and reminiscing. There were pictures of my grandma at all different ages, and we found some of me and my siblings, as well as a ton of my dad! We laughed at everyone’s outfits and hair and it was just so good to be there with everyone at that time when we were all hurting to share those memories together.
The funeral home held a private viewing for the family first. They really did my grandma well; she looked absolutely beautiful. As she got older and as she got sicker, she looked less like herself, but this looked like my grandma.
I cried then. And I held my dad and he held me. And we both cried together.
My grandparents lived on a pretty big piece of land, so going to Pennsylvania was always a bit of an adventure for us. We were used to houses right next to each other in suburban neighborhoods, and all the space was luxurious .The front of their house looks down a steep bank and out to the river. Down there, they had a garden, the stables for their horses, and the honeybees that my grandpa raised. Their backyard extended out into the forest for a couple of acres. We never explored the forest very well since they’ve spotted bears before, but the rest of their land was our playground.
I remember my grandpa would pull us around on this rickety little homemade wagon that he would pull with his tractor. We would bounce around and giggle as he pulled us all over the house and down the path to the stables by the creek.
My grandpa had two horses; one named Raindrop who was a white mare with black spots all over, and Chip who was a smooth brown color. Raindrop was always my favorite. He would let us ride them as long as he or my aunt was leading them around on the reins. They were good horses, and we always enjoyed petting them and riding them when we could. You don’t see horses too often in the suburbs, so they were really exciting for us.
Whenever we would travel up for a week in the summer or over Christmas break, my grandma would always bake us all of our favorite cookies and candies: peanut brittle for me and my brother, a pumpkin roll for my sister, mint chocolates for my other brother, chocolate gobs for my mom, and everything in between for my dad. She would make everything from scratch, even the buns we would have for sandwiches for lunch. In the mornings she would make homemade cinnamon rolls, and we would help her shuck corn for dinner that evening. Everything was always delicious, but my family especially loved the corn that they grew in the garden.
Some of my favorite Christmases were at my grandma’s. One of my favorite toys as a kid – that my mom saved and still has now for future grandchildren– was a Barbie house that they gave me. The wall swiveled to make the room either a kitchen or a bedroom and the bed folded up and down. The boombox next to the bed had a button you could press and it would play music, and the phone in the kitchen you could make ring. I thought it was the coolest thing and I played with it all the time.
As cool as that Barbie house was, my favorite gift from my grandma is a sock monkey that she made by hand. This was so special to me because she made it from real socks, and it looked like she could have bought it straight from a store. I played with it a lot, so it’s a little beaten up today, but I still have it proudly sitting on my bookshelf. She also made me and my siblings stuffed bears and knit clothes for our dolls, as well as baby blankets and scarves.
She never forgot to send a card or a call on your birthday, and she had everyone’s birthday memorized in the family – and our family is huge! She had nine siblings (including my grandpa’s), six children (plus spouses), eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and countless nieces and nephews. But she never forgot anyone.
That was just the type of person she was.
I have so many wonderful memories of my grandma, so it was hard to say goodbye. Her absence made me miss my grandpa’s absence even more. Losing her makes me feel like I’ve lost him again. My memories of my grandma are intertwined with memories of my grandpa, and vice versa.
This weekend was hard, but with all hurt there is healing, and the knowledge that she is in a better place with my grandpa once again comforts all of us. But we sure will miss her.