Friday, April 23, 2010

Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Today is a Friday, no big deal. It's the Friday before my birthday happens. On this very Friday, nine years ago, I spent the day with my grandmother for the last time. On this Friday, every year, I wake up with both a smile on my face just thinking of that last day and of a bit of sadness that she is no longer, here. But, on that Friday, it was just the two of us, like old times, and that part takes away the sadness part.

In my ever changing moods, my birthday month is also the month my grandmother passed away. I know she had lived a very full life, was no spring chicken and thankfully did not live a long, drawn out illness, but she is missed by me on a regular basis. I am just glad that we spent that last Friday, together. And, that year, on that Friday, it happened to be my birthday. That made it even more special.

My grandmother was the constant in my life, growing up. No matter what chaos orbitted around my family and home, I knew that my grandparents lived just up the street and were a quick bike ride or walk away. She was my biggest champion and fan. There were other grandchildren but I was her favorite. Everyone knew it and it became a running family joke. She never got angry with me, she never scolded. She made sure that her front door was always unlocked for me to enter. I was always, Pammy, to her. Never Pam or Pamela. On her last day, I was still her Pammy.

She was a feisty little woman. She wasn't very tall but she was very mighty. She didn't take crap from anyone. She could be so nice and laughing, one minute, but if a friend or person rubbed her the wrong way, they were toast. In a very subtle way but that person knew that their time had come and they were no longer welcome under her friendship umbrella. No drama. Just the raise of an eyebrow, a snide comment, and she was out of there.

She used to let me sit at her makeup vanity for hours. One of the bedrooms in their house was all about her. Her closets, her own little pink bathroom and entire wall of a giant mirror and huge vanity table that my grandfather had built, just for her. I can still remember the scent of Shalimar perfume, the ruby redness of all of her lipsticks, her drawers of white gloves, in all lengths. Her trays of jewlery. All there for me to sit and admire and play with.

Her closets were stuffed with clothes and shoes. She loved shoes. And fur coats. She was a clothes girl. it any wonder where I get the same tendencies? But, she was never flashy. She abhorred flashiness. To see her out and about, she sometimes looked like a little bag lady. That is what I loved about her. She didn't care if she went shopping looking like a million bucks or if she went shopping looking like something the cat drug in. She was the same person, either way, take her or leave her.

She and I would spend many hours drinking ice cold RC Colas in frozen metal tumblers. (It was the 70s and we put metal tumblers in the freezer) We liked to drink these icy drinks while eating store bought iced oatmeal cookies. She wasn't a baker. She would buy all baked goods and then try to make them look like she had been baking for hours and put everything in her big cookie jars. When we weren't drinking RCs and eating cookies, we were drinking iced tea (our fav drink) and eating chocolate candy bars. (Clearly, I had not entered into healthy eating, yet.) We would sit out in her big swing and and just watch the day roll by with our drinks and our junk food.

Saturday mornings, when I was young, she would pick me up and take me with her to her Saturday hair appointments. I would sit and listen to the grown up lady gossip in the beauty shop while I drank ice cold Cokes from the cooler in the shop. After her hair appointments, we would lunch at a downtown tea room and then stop at the downtown Woolworth's so that I could pick out another outfit for my Barbies.

I went to her when I was happy, I went to her when I was upset. If someone had wronged me, she would have a few choice words for them and then she would call them a funny name and we would just laugh it off and everything was better.

In my adult years, she was proud of everything that I did. She loved the cheerleader so much! Had my grandmother lived for a few more years, I am sure that the cheerleader would have been spoiled in the same way I had been because she was a part of me and that made her special to my grandmother.

In the month that we found out my grandmother was sick, you really wouldn't have known she was sick. She still insisted on having me take her to get her hair done, she still insisted on her makeup and she took up a new habit of using profanity. I guess it was one last thing she wanted to try before she left. One day, she wanted to go to lunch so I picked her up and took her and my mother to lunch. It was a bright and chilly spring day. The next day, she was taken to the hospital and stayed there for a little over a week. She slept the entire time and we each took turns sitting with her.

On the Thursday, before that Friday, I left in the late evening hours to go and sit with her in the dark hospital. I remember sitting very still and just staring at her. The next day they moved her to a private facility because they said she wasn't going to come out of this state. That day was my birthday. I woke up with a heavy heart and decided that the only person I wanted to spend my special day with was my grandmother. I was fully prepared to sit, in silence, and watch her sleep. When I walked into her new room she was sitting up in bed! She was asking for iced tea!! When she saw me, she said, Happy Birthday, Pammy....we sat and chatted and drank iced tea and she knew the date and time and kept trying to get me to go out and enjoy my day. It was the best gift of any birthday. I left with a song in my heart.

She left us a few days, later. It was sad but it was her time. While my heart was sad and hurting, I did have that happy day with her, though. My last memory of us, together. It happened on my birthday and it was the greatest gift coming from one of the greatest gifts I could have been grandmother.

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