I have coming up a trip I never wished to take; on Thursday I will travel to my grandmother's funeral. I cannot believe she is really gone, cannot believe that I speak of her in the past tense now. I loved my grandmother. Loved. Loved her so much.
I've never grown up around my extended family. Where my grandmother was concerned, however, this fact never mattered. She called every year on my birthday. She visited "all the time" when I lived as a child on the island. Who knows how often that really was? What mattered is that it felt like always. Since before I could even spell, we wrote letters back and forth, long missives in which I narrated all the exciting adventures of my life and she responded in kind. Thoughts, wisdom, and lots of love. When she visited, she picked me up at school, took us kids to the beach, went out for ice-cream, and played with us. She knew every boy I ever loved growing up, even when I wished she didn't!
My grandmother taught me things. She taught me to ride a bike, to learn my times-table in mathematics, to make beds beautifully (which mattered a lot in a family where hospitality happened all the time and it was fun to pretend you were a maid at a hotel!).
She taught me to love fiercely, even as she loved fiercely. I don't know anyone who loved more fiercely than she. In the last decade, I've done a lot she couldn't understand. Why would I ever want to go to some of the places I have visited or studied or worked in? Why would I sleep there or eat that or try this? How could I love it? But no matter how much my lifestyle and passions confused her, she always loved me firmly and supported me. She wanted to hear about everything. She kept a notebook with every single one of my blog-posts printed off, and maps tracking where I was or had been. She loved me no matter what.
And she invested so much! Hours over breakfasts when I was in the area--breakfasts at my favourite restaurants or else a special breakfast favourite she made for me at her house. We would talk long into the night and she would fall asleep in the big double bed in the special blue room with me, holding my hand. I think sometimes I fell asleep in the middle of a prayer. She even put up with my kicking in the bed!
She nurtured my creative spirit. Every piece of I-don't-even-know-what that I made from trash, she kept, and told me she kept. Beautiful. So interesting. Do you have more? What have you made lately?
All my drawings and paintings on her fridge, and she would write me--"so-and-so from church commented on your beautiful picture today."
She told me long stories about family history and connected me to a world of people which space and time kept me from. I learnt about genealogy and family loyalty and the price of loyalty from her. I learnt about hard work and sacrifice and so many other things from talking with her in a pick-up truck at farmers markets or in her beautiful garden or biking on back roads. So much, I cannot possibly write it out here in brief tonight.
She was strong, and I hope she passed along her strength to me.
I loved my grandmother, and I hope that I can carry not only the memory of her into the future, but that I can grow the beautiful pieces of her that live on in me long after today and yesterday and this coming Thursday.