Monday, April 9, 2012

Stories my grandmother told me

I loved my maternal grandmother. She was the embodiment of beauty; I looked up to her my entire childhood and well into my twenties, even now. I can still remember her hands, her smile, her smell, the way she hugged, the way she would sing. I loved her so purely that at times I think I loved her more than I loved my mother.

We lived with my grandparents on and off for the first 12 years of my life. My grandmother taught me how to play the piano, helped me learn to read music, taught me what I know about baking and sewing. She made dresses for me as a child, and they were my favorite dresses growing up.

On occasion my grandmother would let my brothers and some cousins and I sleep downstairs in her living room, all in a row; a pile of mismatched children and blankets, and she would tell us stories that she would make up on the spot, or ones that were reminiscent of childhood tales from her youth. She would keep the story going until every grandchild had fallen asleep.

When morning would come, she would have biscuits and gravy ready for us to gobble up, or if we were really lucky, she would have scones frying in a hot pan of oil. I loved the way she loved us. She would always tell me that I was her favorite, which I wholeheartedly believed because of how much love I felt from her.

My grandmother was a huge part of my childhood. Not only because we lived in her home, but because my mother became sick around the time I was 5. My grandmother stepped in when my mom was sick in bed with a migraine, or had adverse side effects from the medication her doctors were experimenting with at the time.

I remember all the stories my grandmother told me as lessons or as lullaby stories. But the one I can't forget is how she would tell me how sick my mother was. She would tell me that if my mother died, she would go to the Celestial Kingdom, which is the highest level of heaven. She would tell me how Jesus and God would be there to hold my mother and comfort her. She would tell me that my mother would no longer feel pain. She let me know that I would feel so sad, but it would be okay, because it would be in God's plan. I remember how she would wipe away my tears and how she would hold me.

I remember my mother being in the hospital over Christmas in 1992. I remember my father telling me and brothers how the hospital didn't allow visitors on Christmas, so we spent the entire day at his parents house, whom I loved as well. I remember opening our gifts in the hospital the day after Christmas. And I remember coming home to a house that felt so empty. My mother was in the hospital and my only sense of comfort had moved to Apple Valley the previous Summer.

Two years later my parents when through their first divorce. (Yes, I said first.) And I looked forward to the week every Summer that I would spend at my grandmother's house. My grandfather had a wonderful garden, and we would pick zucchini for the delicious zucchini bread my grandmother would bake. I really missed her after she moved. Every time I visited, I eagerly waited to hear her stories, they had changed from bedtime tales to childhood memories over a game of Up Words.

I loved every story she told me, and even though her story of what would happen if my mother died really made me feel like my mother was definitely going to die, I know now that her intention was to comfort me.

My grandmother passed away in 2009. I hadn't spoken to her much the last year of her life, but I know how much she loved me and I believe if I had loved her any more than I did, my heart would have burst.

After my grandmother had passed away, I had a gander at some of her children's facebook postings. They all were posting about how they know she was playing the piano up in the spirit world, or how she was now living without pain awaiting judgment day. Some mentioned how they couldn't wait to see her again.

It was a bittersweet moment for me, when I took a step back from the pain of losing her, and realized that I would never see her again. I realized the story she told about what would happen to my mother was something she truly believed would also happen to her. That I would never, ever get to hear one of her stories ever again. Then the sweet part came, when I realized that even though she was now gone, that she did exist. She lived a full and beautiful life, filled with pain and regret and love and family. She taught me to play the piano, which I can now teach to my daughters, my grandchildren and maybe even my great grandchildren. I learned how to sew, which has turned into a full blown craft obsession.

And the best part of all, besides having her chicken and dumplin' recipe, is that I got to love her and be loved by her. And I get to share each and every story she told me with my daughters, plus the story about how purely awesome my grandmother was.

1 comment:

PurpleCar said...

This was lovely!

And I adored your take. I was raised Roman Catholic and am now an atheist, and I think our view can be just as comforting. Your grandmother now lives a new life in MY memory, because of this post. How sacred stories are, and what power they have.

thanks for sharing yours.

-Christine, a.k.a. PurpleCar