When I was little, my sister and I spent a LOT of time and my paternal grandparents house. We only lived 100 yards away, and as they were so much more permissive than our parents, we loved it there. After all, if they wanted to spoil us, who were we to stop them? We would get off the school bus there every afternoon. After my granddad died, we would spend every weekend with Grandmother from Friday night until as late as possible on Sunday. We stayed there in the summer and other school holidays. We practically lived there. It really was a “second home” to us.
We moved into town after my parents divorce. Instead of being just up the hill, we were now a half hour away, but that still remained home in my heart, especially since six months after the move, our house burned to the ground from an electrical fire. But then, that house wasn’t home. The house where I grew up was filled with memories of my parents fighting — heated voices and cold silences; tense meals where bedtime was an escape and not something to be fought by us kids. Grandmother’s house was home.
Laughter reigned supreme there. Grandmother had one of those faces that always smiled. She was an old-fashioned “lady” from the top of her silver hair to the nail of her pinky toe, which only made it funnier when she would say something completely outrageous.
She never said a bad word about anyone (even when I thought they richly deserved it). She always spoke well of everyone or said nothing at all. Even when someone needed to be warned against another person, she managed to convey the warning without once speaking ill of the person.
She never raised a hand to us kids — well, once, but that was only because I told her she wouldn’t and she could NOT let me get away with that. She shamed us into behaving, and let me tell you THAT is a lost art. She could look so disappointed in us and say, “Now aren’t you ashamed” and I swear I had to look UP to see the dirt. I just felt that low.
There was a tree in her front yard that all of us grandkids climbed. “You kids get out of that tree! That limb is gonna break with you!” is a admonition we all heard for years. It never did, but that comment gave all of us kids laughs over the years. It seems that our parents had heard the same admonition. And so did our kids.
Grandmother showed me how I should act. By her actions, she was an example. She was a rare lady who lived what she preached….except she never preached, she just DID. Of course, not all of her lessons took. I still lick my fingers when eating fried chicken. My elbows sometimes find there way onto the table. And I still don’t always remain quiet when I should. In fact, that lesson never really took at all.
She’ll be gone 13 years this Thanksgiving. It seems like forever. And yet it seems like I just talked to her this morning. I saw her face flush with laughter, eyes crinkled shut, belly just a jiggling (she really looked like a Mrs. Clause when she laughed!).
And now I find out that some family members are tearing down the house. I know, I know. It’s just a house. She’s been gone almost 13 years. It’s in bad shape. It has mold and termites. It can’t be saved. But none of that is true to me. It’s NOT just a house. It’s my home and it always will be. It may be in bad shape, but if it had been taken care of over the last years, it wouldn’t be this bad and it might not have mold or termites. It might could have been saved.
It feels like I am being cut into little pieces, that part of my heart is being carved out of my body. This was my HOME. No longer can I go sit on the porch and pretend she’s still there. No longer can I go inside and pretend she’s still cooking some homemade apple tarts. No longer can I deny for a time that she is gone. It’s like I’m losing her all over again. I want to crawl into a hole somewhere and sob for hours. I want to go to sleep and wake up pretending this was all a nightmare. But I can’t.
I miss Grandmother like I would miss my own mother. She was a gentle, compassionate lady that I have always wanted to emulate (but fail at miserably). She helped raise me. She gave me warmth when I felt the cold silences at my house. She gave me peace when all I had was chaos in my mind. She gave me some of my best childhood memories. And now, after her house is gone…
………Memories are all I will have left.