I feel lucky that my grandmother is still around. I"m in my fourth decade, and so even on an “I had a young mother" scale that still puts her in her eighties. I see her a few times a week, and I'm happy that we live in the same town, and are able to spend a lot of time together. Many people never get that opportunity, and I am thankful for her every day.
Now that my grandmother is getting older, we often talk about memories rather than the things that are left to come. We"re always looking ahead, but it"s different when an age of three digits is staring at you from the corner. But she"s still buying dairy products with extended expiry dates, so I"m pretty sure she has no plans of leaving the family any time soon.
All our talk about the past makes me a little sad, but since our memories are generally good ones, they help to offer escape from thinking about the inevitable future of her absence. Talking about our memories also makes me consider the ways which my own children and grandchildren will remember me, when I too am gone.
Right now my grandmother is such a vivid spot in my life, even when she is not present. I can only imagine and hope that it will remain this way, for she is there in my penchant for singing at the sink, she is there in my petite frame but round belly (damn that round belly!), and she is there in the jumble of her gifted hand-knit dishcloths clogging my kitchen drawers. When my son or my daughter stands at the sink, using those cloths, sometimes we sing together. Sometimes we are silent because I'm frustrated with them, or they with me, or both with each other, but sometimes we sing.
When I was growing up, my grandmother was more like a mother to me than my own mother was. It is her who I will remember tucking me in at night under a heavy blanket, and her who brought me toast with marmalade and a plastic cup of ginger ale when I wasn"t feeling well. I try and remember her patience for me on those days when my own children are sick. Any parent knows that fevers and colds don"t wait for the day without commitments, and viruses often strike at the absolute worst of times. It is because of the way my grandmother treated me on those days that when I catch myself thinking “I don"t need this right now!" I try to refocus on the “right now" and not the “I."
These are some of the small things we talk about. My memory is fairly good but I dare to say that hers may be better. Each event we discuss has been carved in the delicate and unforgiving surface that is her past. Without knowing it, my grandmother is teaching me to remember that my children will remember not only what I said, but how I smelled, if my hands touched their cheeks with love or with anger, and that there was meaning behind my words. Did “Later, I promise," really mean later as promised, or did it mean “Give up on me, for my words are shallow and a promise made to a child means nothing."
I hope that one day my children stand at their sinks singing and that when they do, they think for a moment of me.
And if I am gone, I hope that their memories are good ones.
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