Every night she tells me I have always been her little girl as I tuck her neatly into her bed. It’s the softness of her voice, I think— the way her words caress my troubled mind, which makes me so happy. She says those words often, repeatedly sometimes, as her memory fades more and more each day. I don’t mind, though. I love when she says those words.
Not a day passes that she doesn’t forget or lose something. One day she’ll misplace her glasses. The next, she’s forgotten where I live. She can never remember my children’s names or who has come to visit. Sometimes, she doesn’t remember if the doors are locked or if she has an income suitable to pay her bills. Funny, though. None of that matters to me.
Of course, it bothers me to see her worst fear come to pass. She was always afraid she’d become infirm in some manner. She isn’t a burden to me as she feared. It’s never a bother to me to help her find what she’s lost, even when it’s a memory…especially when it’s a memory.
We sit in our matching recliners and talk about making candy on the holidays, having family dinners, and the way the scent of the lilacs wafted through the back windows, engulfing the entire house.
Much like those days of old, the lilacs faded away, and I know one day she will too. That’s what bothers me…hurts me…haunts me.
At nearly 99 years old, my grandmother has been the matriarch of our family for nearly 80 years. If there were tears to be wiped, we went to Gam. When there was exciting news to be told, we told Gam first. If we were hungry, Gam cooked for us. She made our clothes, bandaged our scuffed knees, set us straight, and gave us so much love…more love than anyone can imagine. How will we live without her?
It’s funny how death works, really. All the bad things that may have happened disappear, and the good take over. I’ll never remember my Gam saying the things I didn’t want to hear, except that she was doing what was best for me. No memory will linger of a spanking or punishment. All I will ever remember is the joy she brought to my life.
I wonder what it will be like to walk into Gam’s kitchen when she’s no longer there. There is no way that house will be the same without her. No longer will she tell me how precious I am to her. We won’t sit around the table and share a meal. There will be no more laughter at shows like Andy Griffith. That house will be lonely without her. I’ll be surprised if the walls don’t collapse from sorrow. She is what gave that house life. She’s what made it a home.
For now, I hold on tightly to the time I have left. I grasp each moment as if sliding down the face of a mountain. My fingers grip my time with her in a futile effort to save her from the inevitable. She’s such a special person who I just can’t bear to lose. But I have her here with me now, and that’s all that matters. All the repetitive questions, all the losing things, all the near falls, and all the unpleasant tasks we do for those of an advanced age do not matter to me. The only thing I care about is that I still have my Gam.
Who knows what happens after a person passes beyond this world. One thing is for sure: those who pass leave behind so much for the living. We keep the sorrow of loss, but more than that, we keep these beautiful memories that waft through us and engulf our minds much like the scent of lilacs in the spring. I will never forget the smell of those lilacs. It comes to me when I least expect it, tossing me into childhood memories of being barefoot in the yard, hanging clothes on the line with Gam. Maybe, if I’m lucky, when Gam has passed, the scent of lilacs will carry her back to me now and again. Maybe if the lilacs work hard enough, they’ll keep her with me forever.
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!