My grandmother is dying. Or so everyone thinks. Every Christmas, we hear, “This may be the last one that Granny’s with us,” and the next Christmas she is still around for us to repeat the phrase. My Granny is ninety-six years old. She is not your typical cooking, baking, going-to-spend-the-night-with grandmother. She didn’t live near us when we were growing up. We were a military family, and every year when we had “vacation”, we loaded up the Volkswagen and went to Granny’s. My sister and I weren’t very old, but I remember after hours (it was actually a really long day’s drive) of driving, we would arrive at her house and she would be all dressed up in a dress, panty hose, high heels and red lipstick. She would greet us at the door, cigarette in hand, pass out hugs and kisses and promptly leave. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was going out dancing, regardless if she had out-of-town company that she only saw once a year!
She may not have baked cookies, but my grandmother could make the best potato salad on the planet, and her sweet tea tasted like desert. She was brutally honest on any subject, she had her favorite family members and she wasn’t ashamed to show her favoritism. Every year for our birthday, we received a card with a $1 bill inside. That was a tradition that didn’t end until we were well into our thirties! My Granny loved to drink wine. Much to my mother’s dismay, I would give her a bottle every year for Christmas and she would always whisper to me, “Best gift this year!” She wore Pond’s cold cream to bed every night, and still today when I smell Pond’s, it reminds me of crawling up in her bed with her to spend the night.
She raised five children as a single mom. She worked two and three jobs at a time to keep them fed. Her life was not an easy one. She has outlived two (I think) husbands, all of her siblings, one child and one grandchild. She has a sharp tongue and a keen, dry wit. Even now, when my Mom goes to visit her and asks, “Do you know who I am?” she is usually answered with a very sarcastic, “Of course I do! Why wouldn’t I know who you are?” Over the past year, her health and mind has begun to decline. I think she sleeps a lot. She and the family have planned her funeral, although my cousin said she’s not sure why, “I don’t think she’s checking out any time soon. Granny sent out Christmas cards this year and that was more than I could manage.”
Saying, “good bye” is never easy, but when I think back on what I know of her life and the memories she gave me, I think, “Wow! What a ride! That’s how I want it to be.” To know that when my time comes I’ve lived a life, not just existed. I want to know I’ve had enough. I recently read this and it made me think of my Granny and her final days:
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life seem bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.”
They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them and a lifetime to forget them. I hope you find that special person and that you appreciate them for who they are and that when the time comes, you’ve said enough hellos that you can get through the final good-bye.