I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Grandmabear these days. Sometimes my memories are so vivid that it’s almost as if she’s here, as if she was always here. Pax, I think, sees her. He keeps waving over my shoulder, smiling and cooing at nothing. Once when he was doing this, Mom stopped, mid-stir. “Mom’s here” she said. “I can smell her.” Pax grinned and reached out to empty space.
This is my love letter to Grandmabear. I wrote it for her funeral, technically at Mom’s request. But really, Mom didn’t need to ask. I was already writing, the words pouring out of me. This love letter was already there, it wrote itself. So now back at home, surrounded by homemade raspberry jam, here is my little letter. My small contribution to honoring a life well-lived, to a woman well-loved.
Sitting. And rocking. The early afternoon sun slants in. Her old green rocker creaks with each swing. My hand is tucked into her larger, wrinkled one. She traces circles on my palm with her thumb. I touch her wedding ring, now completely smooth, worn down by time. She tells me what it looked like in the old days.
I hold up my purple plastic butterfly. It was a sun catcher for my window and the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Grammabear had bought it for me at the grocery store. It was 99 cents. Which I knew was almost 100. And 100 of anything was more than I could fathom. I felt so spoiled. So lucky. But I always felt that way at Grammabear’s house.
In the mornings, I would follow her around the backyard. She would be hard at work weeding and tending to the raspberries. I would chatter to her back, stooped over the prickly bushes. “Chatterbox” she’d call me. “Ha!”
I remember the smell of raspberries. The hot, hot sun. The dirt on my knees and under my fingernails. I would steal raspberries from her bowl. Grammabear would just laugh. Later, she would help me pick a stalk of rhubarb. Dipping it in a bowl of sugar, just as she showed me, would make my nose crunch up. First sweet and gritty, then sour. Grammabear said she ate hers that way as a little girl. So I did too. She preferred jeans, and would steal her brother’s. I only wore jeans, too. Crepes with butter and sugar are the best, according to Grammabear. My sister and I both still prefer ours that way.
Sometimes she’d tell me stories. And about her brother Joe, and her best friend, Elsie. She’d tell me about Grandpa Scotty. And what love looked like in the 1940’s. “You never said it out loud” Grammabear said. “None of this lovey-dovey stuff. But every day Scotty’d come home after work and find me – somewhere in the house, and hand me half his beer. There. That’s how I knew.” And then she’d laugh at herself. “I love you, Sweetheart,” she’d say. But we already knew. Grammabear always made my sister and I toast with both butter and jam. “When I was little, only one allowed” she’d tell us, and then she would make sure both the butter and jam went all the way to the edge of our toast. “Jam to the edge!” she’d say. But we’d only hear her love.
I loved kissing her soft, lined cheek. I loved those wrinkles. If I never Botox, it will be because of Grammabear’s face. Ha! She’d get a kick out of that. I loved how she smelled. She smelled a bit like me. She smelled like family. And, to a little girl, she smelled safe and happy and warm. I loved the way she’d talk, muttering to herself, mixing up the syllables. “Blah-Blah-Blah!” she’d say with her tongue. “Can’t get it out!” I do that too. “Our tongues can’t keep up with our brains” I’d tell her. “Ha!” she’d say. She liked that. And we’d both laugh.
Part of my heart will forever belong to Grammabear. It will be with her, on her old porch, where we would sit and listen and swing. Holding hands. Telling stories. Listening to the birds, the bugs, the cars going by. Telling her my little girl secrets. Eating raspberries and rhubarb and homemade popcorn. Listening to her old records. Kissing her lined cheek.
She smiles and waves as we pull out of the driveway. We blow her kisses and shout “I love you!” until they get lost in the air. And still we can see her, waving. Getting smaller and smaller as we drive away. Until at last, still waving and smiling, she is out of sight.