Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thinking of Gramma

The Saturday before Mother’s day,
my Gramma Camille suffered a severe stroke.
At first, she was still able to talk quietly,
and that turned into occasional head nods.
Today she's had her eyes open a lot,
and has been squeezing everyone's hand,
but she isn't improving more than that.

They've been playing Patsy Cline for her--
which she loves.

It's only a matter of time before she slips away.
I heard the news while we were in California.
I brushed my emotions to the side,
and focused on Violet’s first birthday.

During our 12 hour drive home,
I let myself process everything.

There was a good few hours when 
Kelly and the girls were sleeping,
and I drove through the night playing out 
all of my favorite memories in my head-- 
there are so many.

Hot tears were falling down my face 
as quickly as they were being made. 

They were nostalgic tears--
taking me back to my childhood,
when we would dress up in her hats, slips,
and fancy jewelry to be glamourous like her. 
She is one of those people who truly fills up her skin.
She is confident in the woman that she is,
and I don't think she's wasted a minute of her life
 worrying about what anyone thinks of her.

She made herself a palace of a home 
in the middle of a swampy forrest.
She calls her home "paradise,"
and loves watching the sunrise
 from her screened in porch.

When you walk into her home, you'd find exotic animal paintings,
and a statue of a knight and shining armor in the corner of a room.
Definitely eclectic, and maybe even cluttered with knick knacks,
and anything else that struck her fancy.

You'd walk into a kitchen where
 the doors had been ripped off of all the cabinets 
because she "liked it better that way."
Her bedroom is fit for a queen with drapey fabrics,
a vanity with an antique hand mirror and brushes,
and a beautiful Armour filled with glitzy clothing.
She was by no means wealthy,
but took pride in making her life beautiful.

It was rare to see her without her lipstick.
Usually it would be red, and other times hot pink,
or some other vibrant color.

I remember sitting on the counter in her bathroom,
as a little girl--
wearing one of her slips as a nightgown.
 She brushed and blow dried my hair
 until it was silky smooth,
then twisted and pinned it into a bun.

I'll never forget the lecture I got for painting my toenails blue.
She removed that blue polish faster than you could imagine.
She brought in a big pot of hot water, and soaked my feet,
and gave me a mani and pedi while we watched Ben Hur.
She used a mango scented lotion 
and painted my nails a pretty red color.
I was 12, and thought it was very luxurious.
My Gramma was an amazing pianist.
She never read music,
but could sound out any song she wanted to.
 One day when we were very young,
Gramma was teaching Shelly a song on the piano.
I wanted her to teach me,
but she thought I was too small.
I watched very carefully as she taught Shelly the notes.
once they left the room,
I practiced the song, and when I figured it out,
I played it for her.
From then on, she taught me how to play.
She loved rolling chords up the keyboard,
and making every song elaborate.
We played duets, How Great Thou Art,
Beautiful Dreamer, and other old-timey songs.
Playing the piano with her will
 always be treasured memories.
My Dad had told me on Sunday that 
Gramma told one of the nurses
“I used to play the piano-- but I don’t read music.”
She said this, then pointed to her head.
I can imagine her saying this, 
and when she gets to the end of the sentence:
 “read music,”
Her head tilts to side,
her eyebrows raise,
 and she presses her lips together 
when she finishes her sentence.
she might have even added a
at the end, with a little flick of her hand. 
I know that it didn’t really happen that way
because it took all of the energy 
she could muster to whisper what she did--

but that’s how she would have said it in better days.
(Gramma and Cristy 1987)
My Aunt and Uncle flew out to Louisiana to be with her.
It's hard to not be with her right now,
but I can imagine it being even harder to see her 
in the state she is in.

About 7 years ago,
we went to Louisiana for Gramma's birthday.
We took her to Copeland's for dinner.
She eats like a bird.
She hardly ate anything,
and had one Martini with an extra olive to drink.
One Martini was all it took--
she was loopy ;)
She laughed throughout dinner,
and swayed down the hall 
as we walked her to her bedroom.
We tucked her into her bed, 
and she laid there giggling
 with her arms outstretched 
pulling each one of us in to hug us,
 and tell us how much she loved us.
Shelly and I talked about how if that was
 the last memory we had of her--
what a happy one it would be.
Luckily we had more years with her,
and now her time is winding down.

I wish I could be by her side now,
and that she wasn't laying in a hospital bed.
I would set her hair in hot rollers,
and smooth it out into forties waves.
I would "put her face on"
 with her lipstick as the finishing touch.
I'd rub lotion into her hands,
and paint her nails a pretty red color.
We could sit at the piano together 

and play "In the Garden."
Then we'd sit on her porch swing
late into the night,
and listen to the crickets.

I wouldn't tell her how I know I'll see her again,
because her view on heaven is different from mine--
and there's no need to start an argument.
Instead I'll let her be pleasantly surprised
 to see so many familiar faces.
I would tell her how much I love her,
and how very important she is to me.
How so much of the person I am
 is because of her.
She'd grab my face, kiss my cheek and say
"Oh lovey-- you're so precious to me."
Then she'd stand at her back door
 waving goodbye as I drive down the lane.

Just as she always did.


Mike and Brit Harris said...

Stacey, I am so so so sorry to her about your Grandma. I know how much you love her. Although I never met her I feel like I know her from all the funny stories you told me about her. She sounds like a wonderful Grandma who truly loves her family.

Cathy Bubert said...

Oh Stacey! That is BEAUTIFUL! You expressed so many of my feelings but in the extraordinary way only you can do. Thank you for your perfect tribute to our AMAZING Grandma Camille.

Jessica Duff said...

I'm so sorry Stacey. Your Grandma is beautiful and I really wish that I could have met her. What a beautiful tribute to your special Grandma. Love you Stacey.

Shell said...

Stace, promise me you'll print this...thank you for capturing our most precious memories of Gramma!

CC said...

What a beautiful post. It is so hard to say goodbye to someone who loves you so very much. The world is such a softer place with a grandma who adores you.

Your family are in my prayers. Praying for comfort and peace for Miss Camille.

Cameron and Rachel Bott said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your sweet Gramma. What a beautiful tribute to her Stacey. She sounds so wonderful. Memories are so great.

samnhal said...

This was such a beautiful tribute to your Grandmother. I'm sure she would appreciate hearing all of these beautiful things.

grandma to 16 said...

What a wonderful tribute to your cute little grandma~~I loved my grandma's too! So grateful you have been able to enjoy her in your life, Stacey!

weston'smommy said...

Stacey I couldn't help but tear up reading this. You wroteit so beautifully. I was extremely close to my Grandma who passed away in 2004 its so hard. But like you said you have so many beautiful memories to look back on.

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