Yesterday, my grandmother, Gramma with the Puppies as I knew her, passed away. She had been very sick.
And today my mommy is very, very sad.
I had not seen my grandmother in a very long time. What I remember of her is filled with a childhood awe of a woman who showers you with presents and always has something to eat. As I grew older I started hearing the stories about this woman, and the things she used to do to drive people crazy. And because I had this little-girl image of a woman who did these very grown up things, my grandmother seems larger than life.
She was stubborn, loud, rude, crude and opinionated. She didn’t care what people thought of her. She was funny, she talked too much, she laughed too loud, and she loved animals. She always had several pets ever time I saw her. She saw the value in every single object, and was hesitant to ever get rid of anything. She held onto her friends for a very long time.
She was independent, strong, and unafraid.
She was crazy, unpredictable, and cursed like a sailor.
She thought one of her dogs could talk.
She sometimes bathed in a bikini in her front yard.
She had a “bitch bitch bitch” keychain for her Pinto.
She sent me my first housewarming present.
She used to send my mother these letters when we first started moving away from my parents’ hometown. Huge envelopes filled with thirty, fifty page letters. I would see these pages and pages written with a thin blue Sharpie and think, “She must really love her.”
And part of me has that, as when I got into school and started liking boys, the ones I liked best would always get my longest notes. The one with the record for 201 pages likes to brag about it to this day.
Part of me also has her tendency to keep things, and store them away “just in case.”
And let’s not go into my potty mouth.
For someone I haven’t seen in years, I still picked up quite a few things about her in that time. And I assume some of it may be through the stories.
My mother has informed me that she found life insurance policies that my grandmother took out on all of her grandchildren and grand-nephews and such. Mine was taken out when I was nine months old. If I die, the policy states that little old Slovak ladies will come to my funeral, cry and pray. The Slovak ladies’ church then pays you one thousand dollars. I asked whom was the intended recipient of that money. My mother checked the form.
“Oh, my God. Gramma was the recipient.”
“For her loss.”
“Hey, Mom? If I die, would you make sure the little old Slovak ladies do come and cry and pray at my funeral, and you just keep explaining to everyone why they’re there? Because that’d be pretty funny.”
“Those poor ladies would have traveled very far.”
“I’ll give ’em something to cry about.”
So Gramma got the last laugh on me. And I hope that wherever she is now, she’s surrounded by her family, her friends, her mother, her best friend Gene, and covered in puppy licks from all of her past pets. I hope the beer is always cold and the fridge is full of creamsicles. I hope it’s sunny and warm, and that there’s always a friend stopping by to see her.
And even though I’ve joked about turning into my grandmother one day (the “skips a generation” joke is big at my house), there are parts of her that I wouldn’t mind passing along at all. And I think maybe those parts are already in me.