I realized this morning that, if my math is correct (that is always in question), it is 18 years ago today that my grandmother passed away. The realization has me thinking back on my memories and relationship with her.
So many of my memories of family gatherings and the traditions I follow today all revolve around her. She is the one I named BG after. Most everything in my life has little touches of her, yet, by the time she passed away, I rarely saw her and didn’t feel like we were all that close.
In the last several years with the fallout from my family, I came to realize that much of how I feel about all of my family members was shaped and filtered through my mother and her opinions. I understand today, that much of the distance with my grandmother, my father’s mother, was because of those opinions, most of which weren’t all that positive. I couldn’t really even tell you why, just… that is the way my mother is (and a huge part of the fallout).
My grandmother was such a fun, bright character in my memory. I remember how much she always fascinated me. I’m pretty certain the first curse word I ever heard came from her mouth during a game of pinochle. She is the one that started my santa curtain tradition. The much beloved and begged for dumpling style egg noodles that are a must at Thanksgiving are hers. A gift that she always gave along with her pie crusts as Christmas gifts because she didn’t have the money for anything else. They were always my most favorite gifts and the inspiration for my gifts of food to my FIL.
Some of my most treasured keepsakes came from her. While I have lots of talented people on both sides of my family when it comes to artistic/crafty skills, my grandmother holds some of my best memories because she is the one that taught me some of those skills. The handmade quilt she made me with painted flower blocks and my prized baby quilt both came from her. I have little keepsakes with handwritten messages of love in several places, some of which are out all the time and others only come out for the holidays, like the tiny wrapped box that will never be opened because the note says not to or I will let the love out.
For a long time after she passed, I had lots of mixed feelings about the last probably 5 years of her life. Part of the distance was because I had grown into an adult and started a family, having my oldest with my first husband. That is to be expected. But a much larger part is because of the distance my mother enforced. I began to take on much of her attitude and negativity towards that side of my family even though I never had any reason to. By the time she passed, I didn’t feel that close to her. I even questioned my prior relationship and closeness with her, her feelings for me, because of it.
Now that I am older and can look back, having my precious reminders around me always, I realize how much I allowed someone else to influence my feelings and opinions. Those things remind me of the stories she would love to tell about me of when I was so much younger. Stories of a tiny toddler crawling into bed with her early in the morning, snuggling in with a cold wet diaper and saying “I love you grandma!” so that she just couldn’t be upset. Or that same young girl eating those famed noodles, one end in each hand and starting in the middle. Stories told with such joy and expression, and at EVERY family gathering, there is no doubt at all how she felt.
Even as she struggled towards the end, not being able to do much for herself and having memory and anger issues towards those caring for her, she showed her love and care when she met Hubby for the first time. Asking about him, me telling her how wonderful he was, both to me and to OC and she adamantly, pointedly asked me straight up, “But do you LOVE him?” It kind of stopped me cold, because isn’t that all that I had just told her? At first, and even for a little while after, I was a little offended by the way she said it, almost like it was an accusation, but it wasn’t. It was her way to make me think, to demand I be sure, because she didn’t want to see me in another unhappy relationship.
For a very long time after she passed, I had dreams about her. Odd ones that felt so real that after I woke I struggled to grasp that she hadn’t actually been there. I even had one where I told her I was naming my child after her. It had felt like I had actually been able to tell her that, that she knew even though she was no longer here. I had lots of moments when I could swear I could smell the unique blend of whatever perfume she wore and her Aquanet hair spray. Remembering her today, I realize that I don’t get those moments very often anymore. I don’t remember the last time I did.
Because of all the BS with my family over the last several years, I have spent countless hours rifling through all of my memories trying to understand and come to terms with where I am now. I’m certain that some of those memories have been tinged with those experiences and may not be entirely accurate, but I can look back on my relationship with my grandmother and know, without a single doubt, that she loved me deeply. She showed it in so very many ways.
I love the fact that her memory and her traditions will live on in my kids. My daughter, who carries my grandmother’s name, is the most passionate about one of my brightest memories, the santa curtain. There are so very few of those kinds of things that are important to me that my kids also find important. I am over the moon that is one of them.