It feels impossible at this point to distance myself enough to write about the entirety of Granny’s life- her beauty, her family, these abstract and massive things that I can barely grasp right now, in my twenties, in my grief.
It seems more appropriate somehow to talk about the past week, with its too-fast process of losing her. I drove up from school last monday, when I heard that she was in the hospital and I stayed the night with her once or twice. Laying in that bed with the blankets draped over her side I could see the thinness of her legs, the knob of her ankles, and even with the swelling I could see through to her delicate joints. When they rolled her onto her side, her hip rose, loping into the soft curve of her figure-- the same feminine shape of her twenties, the curves that my grandfather fell in love with, the hips that bore the seven girls that were now rotating visiting shifts in the ICU. And still, her physical beauty is such a small part of what made her so remarkable.
When they adjust her breathing tube, I see her cry for what I believe is the first time in my life. And I know then the scope of her pain. She was a true stoic-- tearless, fearless, and always without complaint. These are the things she was, in life and death. Just completely graceful. When she held my hand in the hospital, it was the same way she held my hand as a toddler. With all the same acceptance and complete love. That is what she offered everyone she encountered-- a fair shot.
I was nervous about leaving her, but I had to return to school and work and the hustle of immediate concerns. It never really mattered before that she hadn’t seen my house in Athens, of course I wanted her to, but there was always the promise of spring and talk of a visit to come. But when I got the call that she was gone, all of my surroundings seemed to shift. My house felt colder, emptier, hollow since it had never been blessed with her presence. I think everything will feel that way to an extent; that I will always favor the things she had a part in; enjoy the places she had been. As if her having been there would linger, a gentility that could be felt even after years.
Just the other day I meant to have her tell me about her wedding day again. About Russles Point and the Banana Cake made with carnation milk. About the time she was terrified waiting for Papa under the marquee of a movie theater in the rain. These stories and all the others are pieces of her I want to take and hold and shuffle through in passing-- reminders everyday of the person she was. Stories I want to tell my children, who will belong to a generation that will only know the magnitude of her grace through the bits of it I hope we have collected. I can only hope that through proximity to greatness, maybe some of it has rubbed off. I hope that we, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, can try to be those pieces of her that we loved the best. To be strong and gentile, funny and forgiving, faithful and stoic, beautiful and peaceful. I hope that we can love with the fullness and acceptance that she gave to each of us.
As Tootsie would say: “I’ll see you on the radio.”