I apologize for another lengthy absence, but my Grandmother suffered a heart attack last week. Her first in 92 years.
She’s still with us, stubborn as ever, but the battery of tests they performed revealed that she also suffered a series of strokes over the past few months. The doctors don’t know when or how many exactly, but the consensus is at least three.
Three strokes, a heart attack, congestive heart failure, and she still speaks of all she’s ready to do once she’s released from the hospital. Anyone blessed enough to know her would only have this to say in response:
Ever adamant about marching to the beat of her own drum while wielding drumsticks of her choosing in a marching band she leads, I can’t say her spirit surprises me. It’s one of her many endearing qualities and one that I both admire and try to adopt.
My Grandmother is a very special woman. Always has been, always will be. When I was but a wee little baby, she was in my life almost daily as my mother finished college and embarked on her career. A career that was ultimately cut short when she realized she’d rather focus on motherhood than the harvesting of another paycheck.
Still, Grams was a huge part of my life growing up and even though I haven’t seen her as much as I should or could, she still plays just as big a role in it. The memories that float through my head of apple trees, chasing trains, Coca-Cola bottles, and a plastic Donald Duck on wheels mean nothing to those who hear me share the stories surrounding them, but to me, they’re part of my ever-growing treasure chest of reflection.
I suppose I’ve always considered her to be immortal. Impenetrable to illness or the trials of time. Up until the moment we received the phone call about her heart attack, I suppose I’ve always taken her presence for granted. And when the reality hit that she won’t always be there to entertain me with her stories or laugh along with mine, emotions got the best of me.
Not in a sobbing heaped mess kind of way, but more a quiet recollection of everything she’s taught me, everything she’s done for me, and every memory she’s given to me.
I want to rewind. I want to play back and relive the days when she taught me how to fish, when we hunted trains just to see what color caboose it happened to be pulling. I want to huddle over a Scrabble board in a competitive battle of vocabulary and wits. And I want to hear another long, drawn out story with more tangents than a Geometry textbook.
I want to watch in wonder as she masterfully darts from segue to segue somehow finding correlation and relevancy in, well, everything. Grams is the only person I know who can start a conversation about snow and have it end with a statement about cashews without ever drawing a paused breath. And when she’s finished? You won’t even really know what was discussed, but somehow, it’ll all make perfect sense.
I want more chicken and dumplings. I want more roasted leg of lamb. I want more oatmeal. I want more fishing secrets. I want more laughter. In short, I want more time.
Over the years, my grandmother has bestowed upon me a plethora of useless knowledge, only half of which is probably true. Yet because her stories and facts are so believable and said with such conviction, I’ve made sure to pass every lesson down to my own children, just to avoid the risk of leaving out anything that may be true. I figure I’ll just dump it all in their laps and let them worry about separating fact from fiction. It’s such a blurred line anyhow that I don’t really think it matters.
Not too long ago, my Grandmother finally shared her final wishes with my mom. She explained that when she does eventually pass away (with the reminder that she has no plans to do so any time soon), she wants to be cremated and have her ashes divvied up amongst the family. Not just between her children, but amongst all living descendents and perhaps a few of their pets.
She’s always been a giver, but usually she’s just trying to pass off some bent rusted spoon she found in the back of her silverware drawer or hoping to rid herself of a bag of raisins she forgot existed in the rear confines of her refrigerator.
The gesture is sweet and all but I don’t really know how I feel about being bequeathed a tablespoon of my grandmother. On one hand, it’ll be wonderful to know that she’s still watching over us, even if it is just her ankle. But on the other hand, separating Grams into baggies as you would catnip or basil just seems weird to me. By no means am I going to reject my own personal Tablespoon of Grams, I’m just not sure what I’ll ultimately do with it.
Should I display her on our mantel in a miniature ceremonial urn? Should I cast her off a cliff overlooking the Adirondack Mountains because of her affection for the area? Or should I further divide her up so that her great-grandchildren can each have a teaspoon all to themselves?
It seems macabre to talk about, especially since I don’t think she’s going anywhere anytime soon, but I’d like to get this locked down just so there’s no debate.
I guess I could just ask her. She has an amazing sense of humor and I know she wouldn’t care in the least. Even so, I’m just not privy to the rules of etiquette when it comes to asking someone what you should do with their ashes.
As for me upon my eventual demise, I know I also want to be cremated. The thought of hogging up valuable real estate just so I can lay beneath a slab of stone for all of eternity doesn’t appeal to me. Cremation just seems like a lot less hassle for everyone, and considering my love for BBQ, it’d be the perfect end to a wonderful life. In fact, if the cremation can take place in a Weber kettle grill, I’d be in heaven. Even while I’m already in heaven. So, like twice the heaven.
I’ve told Heather on many occasions that I’d like my ashes to be sprinkled on everyone’s salads so I’ll always be a part of them, but she’s somewhat apprehensive over the plan. In reflection, I suppose my Grandmother’s idea of being portioned out into little Grandma dime bags is a more fitting and practical end than my salad dust idea, but I’d definitely win points for originality and style.
At this point, we’re unsure when she’ll be released from the hospital. We just returned this weekend and have plans to go back in the next few weeks to at least relieve my mom for a spell. As of today, the prognosis isn’t grand, but her spirit and optimism are. And to me? That matters more than the medical chart clipped to the foot of her bed.
I don’t care that she’s stubborn, that she’s demanding to do things on her own, and that she’s refusing to accept restrictions and limitations. Difficult patient or not, it’s a far better alternative to giving up the will to fight.
I know she can’t read this, mainly because my mom is the closest thing she has to an IT department and the woman only checks her email if it’s by accident, but I hope I’ve properly conveyed just how much she means to me and just how grateful I am that she remains such an integral part of my life.
She’s truly amazing and I love her to no end.
Each and every Tablespoon of her.