Last night I had one of my notoriously confusing and time-warpy dreams.  In it, one of the many settings was my grandfather’s house in Massachusetts.  I woke up with a weirdly powerful nostalgia.  My grandfather died almost five years ago, so I haven’t been to his house in a very long time, but a flood of memories washed over me with the morning, of all the time I spent at that house growing up.

We would go over there a lot – sometimes just my Dad and I, sometimes the whole family. I loved the front stairs.  There was no good reason that I loved them more than other stairs, but I enjoyed them.  They were red brick and had two thin black metal banisters on either side.  While I was waiting for my parents to catch up – either finish unloading themselves or my brother from the car or from down the block since I had run ahead – I would swing myself under the banister and lie on the sloped brick.  In the summer I would close my eyes and feel the heat of the hard brick below me and the bright sun above me; it was like being hugged by warmth.

Past the front door I have two distinct and separate sets of memories.  The second set I will revisit some other time, for the sake of space and not writing novels.  The first set of memories is collecting every stuffed animal in the entire house and lining them up on the back of the couch in the living room.  I would gather some supplies from the kitchen and then go through one by one and explain to Grammie what was wrong with each one and how I was going to fix them.  Mr. Owl had a broken wing, so after I tested his reflexes with a meat pounder, I would need to wrap his wing and tell him to rest.  She would be kneeling next to me or sitting on the couch, listening patiently, asking me questions.  She would sneak me candy that my parent’s said I couldn’t have.  Sometimes we would roll a ball back and forth to one another.  Apparently we also watched hockey together.  I don’t remember this, but my father tells me that “Goal!” was among my first ten words or so.  I don’t remember many details of our time together besides the stuffed animals and the fact that it was always just me and her in the living room while my parents and Papa had boring adult conversations in the kitchen.

When I was five years old, Grammie passed away.  I remember one day going over and they had this weird toilet-looking thing in the dining room and some strange lady wandering around.  I asked Grammie about it and she said that she was too tired to go all the way upstairs now, so she had to use the bathroom downstairs.  I didn’t really think much of it, but not too much longer after that, Grammie wasn’t there when I went over to visit.  My mother tells me that when they sat me down to tell me that Grammie died, I just looked at my parents blankly and asked why water was coming out of their eyes.  She says that the first time we went over after Grammie died, I walked around the entire house, looking in every room, and then went into the kitchen and shrugged at my parents saying, “I guess she is dead, I can’t find her anywhere.”  It still didn’t seem to register what “dead” really meant.  Then, a few visits later, I stopped two steps up the brick stairs and looked over at the flowerbed.  I then apparently just burst into tears, inconsolable and asking for my Grammie.  This supposedly shook my Papa so much that he basically offered me anything but the kitchen sink to try to calm me down.  I’m sure I got at least one stuffed animal but it didn’t quite fill the hole in my heart that I was just realizing was permanent.

One night, my parents took me over to my Papa’s house to sleep over.  He had never babysat me before, so I had never been alone with him.  It wasn’t going to be a big deal, because I loved my Papa and my parents were going to be putting me to bed and coming to get me in the morning, so it would really only be breakfast that would be new or different.  And I mean, how bad could it be – he had Rice Crispies.  I was pretty little, because I don’t think my brother was born yet since he wasn’t there.  Which means it was only a few months after my grandmother had died.

My parents tucked me into the guest bedroom and kissed me goodnight.  It was dark and the musty smell was familiar and foreign all at the same time.  The shadows were different, the creaks and groans of the house were scary.  There was a picture of my grandmother on the dresser, as soft and beautiful as I remembered her.  After what felt like hours, the emotions overwhelmed me.  I was too little to understand what they were, so I again interpreted this nostalgia and pain of missing my Grammie as fear and I began to cry, running downstairs and hoping my parents hadn’t left yet.  I don’t know where they had been planning to go, but I don’t think they ended up going, because they were still there and ended up taking me home.  I think they knew that something must be seriously wrong, that I must have been really afraid or really sad, because I had never had a problem staying anywhere before.  I rarely cried because I didn’t want to do something, and I definitely never complained about being at my Papa’s house before.

I remember being embarrassed because I didn’t fully understand why I was crying, and I remember someone saying something like, “I think someone is missing someone.”  Until then I hadn’t really attributed my feelings to missing Grammie because so many things had been whirling through my little head, but looking back it was definitely what was going on.

It’s weird to me that I remember this night so vividly.  I remember the overwhelming feeling in my chest, like something large was sitting on my chest.  I remember standing at the top of the stairs and taking a deep breath, trying to convince myself I could get back into bed, but then starting to cry again.  I remember creeping slowly down the stairs, listening hopefully for my parents’ voices and bracing myself for the possibility of being in trouble for getting out of bed and for not wanting to stay.

I missed my Grammie for a long time.  I still do.  I used to cry sometimes at night because she would never know me.  My parents tell me that in her eyes, I could do no wrong.  I often wonder what she’d think of me now, all grown up.  If she would be proud of the woman I’ve become, the things I’ve accomplished.  What advice she would have given me, what new traditions we would have.  I hope someday our souls will be reunited and we can have a lovely, long conversation.  And a warm, deep embrace.

~ by Valerie Anne on 12/08/2010.

2 Responses to “Grammie”

  1. I love this post. I miss my Grandma too. Grandma’s are the best.

  2. They really are.

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