I think I can step away from Crow Creek long enough to write about my grandmother who would've turned 100 years old today. I keep telling myself not to cry, but it's not working. This should be a day of celebration, except that she's not here to enjoy it with us. She died in February of 2011. Congestive heart failure. She got sick early on a Thursday morning but didn't want to bother my mom, so she called 911 and got an ambulance to take her to the hospital. By the time my mother got there, they had already placed Grandma in a coma as they tried to suck the fluids out of her lungs (or whatever it is they do). Somehow, we all knew in our hearts that this was the end, even though my grandmother had barely been sick a day in her life. At almost 97, she was still living independently in her own apartment. Sure, she'd slowed down some (who wouldn't?), but she was also as sharp as a tack right up until the end.
She came out of her coma long enough that weekend to say goodbye to everyone in her own way. My mom, brothers, and uncle were all with her. The rest of us, her grandchildren across the country, talked by phone and tried to comfort. The last conversation I had with her was on Sunday night just as the Oscars were starting. We each guessed the winners just like we did every year for as long as I can remember. I also asked her how they were able to find an oxygen mask big enough to fit over her nose, which made her laugh as we told each other goodbye and said "I love you." What a great final memory to have of my grandmother, whose constant joking was responsible for so much laughter throughout my life. She had heart failure again the next morning while my mom was feeding her breakfast and was gone by the end of the day. At her funeral, I dropped a lock of my hair into her coffin along with a small piece of a blanket she gave me as a gift the day I was born. I gently sang a few words of "Heart of Rome" as I bent over to kiss her beautiful face one final time. "Hold me very close before you leave me."
Honestly, I don't think about the day she died that much anymore. I prefer to remember the good times. I treasure our relationship. I wish my own children had that kind of connection with their grandparents. I guess what we shared really wouldn't mean anything to anyone else, but that's just how it goes with any close bond, right? Impersonating Clouseau, strutting like Jessie "The Body," passing pinochle cards under the table, easily distracting her with flattery while playing any board game with a timer, eating the rotten bananas, hiding everything in her apartment, going to Vegas to see Tom Jones (and Wayne Newton and George Carlin), running to her place for a quick bite while on lunch break at Lucky's, switching movies on 50-cent Tuesdays, bouncing on her knee to "See Saw Knock at the Door," listening to her recite "The Night Before Christmas" and tell dirty jokes. Her being there for every important event in my life from my first school play and her visit to NC to see the beautiful baby girl I named after her. Her hands. My God, how I miss holding her hand. The list goes on and on. Grandma Nance will always be part of my life.