I found out my grandmother died Friday evening—my father called from work to tell me, after receiving a call from my cousin Eric, and after calling my brother Tim who would tell my brother Jack.
My friend stopped by to give me a hug, drop off a pack of cigarettes (because it’s been a fall, guys) and a small bottle of scotch for my father, who was on his way over so we could be together. I had already cracked open a bottle of red wine. “Tell me your favorite story about your grandma,” my friend said.
“Well,” I said smiling, “she told me once I needed to lose weight in front of 50 people. She cooked me a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch last time I saw her and forgot to take the paper off the cheese. She always said she wasn’t going to be alive long enough to see me get married and have babies. And I guess she was right,” my voice breaking from laughter to a heaving sob.
Gram was a piece of work. She nagged me for not having a husband. She hated our tattoos. She asked me if I paid for the holes in my jeans. No dog was ever well behaved. But she loved us with her whole heart. And delighted in nothing more than the successes and triumphs of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A year or two ago a handful of us gathered at my cousin’s house in Frederick. Gram was trying to watch her shoes, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, respectfully, as she did every afternoon and couldn’t hear over the raucous. She moved closer and closer to the television, until she was standing directly in front of the screen, holding the remote in her hand and punching the volume louder and louder, before telling all of us to hush up to she could hear, clearly agitated.
“Hey, listen!” I said, gesturing to the group in the living room—one of her daughters, five of her grandchildren, three of her great-grandchildren, a handful of dogs—“we’re all your fault, so I’m going to need you to calm down.” She laughed and put her arm around me.
My dad and I drove up to Frederick Saturday afternoon to spend some time with my cousin, his wife and their two young children— to be around family and for the healing powers of snuggling their new baby boy. As we walked from the car to a restaurant for lunch, I asked my 4 year old cousin if she wanted to hold my hand and she said, “no, Uncle Bobby’s,” walking up to my father.
As they walked in front of me, hand-in-hand, it was a sweet glimpse of the continuing generations—of my grandmother’s great-granddaughter holding the hand of her son. And my of father’s future as a grandparent himself. With grandkids who have holes in their jeans and tattoos—or whatever the style of the time that he doesn’t understand—that will talk too loud during his afternoon programs.