My grandmother loved me. I mean, she really loved me. She filled the spaces and cracks in my soul that I didn’t even know existed. Her love and nurturing was the only thing that erased the sting of not having a mother around to fulfill those innate childhood needs. A child needs to be held and stroked and craves feeling loved. They don’t even realize that’s what it is they’re craving. It’s just a painful thing inside them, when it’s not there. So, when you have that painful thing inside you for a while, and someone eases it for a bit, you hold on tight. Forever.
I can remember feeling anxious as my grandmother got older. Once she hit her 80’s, I knew it could be any day that I would receive the news that she was gone. I couldn’t imagine not having that feeling anymore. Even as a young adult, no one else had given it to me…at least, not in a way I could allow myself to feel it. So, I was mindful around her. I purposefully listened to every word she said, even as she started repeating her stories. I knew there would be a time when I wouldn’t hear her voice again, so I listened intently. I especially loved the one she told about my grandfather asking her to marry him. She told it every single time I went over, during those last few years. That was one story she was not going to forget. Her face glowed, as she stared off at the memory. As she spoke, I would stare at her, looking in those soft eyes of hers. I noticed her scent. She used the same laundry detergent my entire life and just the smell of it soothed me. I would hold her hand, rubbing my fingers over hers, memorizing every bump, every wrinkle…turning her wedding ring around her ever shrinking finger. God, she got so small as she aged. Everything about her got smaller…her stories, her memory, her voice, her mind, her body…but not her love. She may had forgotten how to cook her homemade cookies, or how to sign her name, but she never forgot how much she loved me.
She’s been gone for over 16 years. I turn her wedding ring on my own finger now, and remember every detail of that story she used to tell. I can almost hear her voice. I can almost feel her skin. I can almost smell her. And once in a while, if I’m really lucky, I get to experience her in all those senses for real, when she visits me in my dreams. Until that happens again, I’ll have to settle for almost… but I’m still holding on tight.