As a child my grandma was one of my favorite people. She was always enthusiastic for everything I did, incredibly supportive and loving. My most vivid memories of her are her tight embraces, her scent, the pins she wore on her turtle necks and her vast collection of mice figurines.
Nearly a decade ago her and my grandfather retired to Nevada, to a small town hours outside of Carson. They wanted to live a simple life away from the city. At the time I was devastated. My grandparents house had been a constant in my shifting world as a child. My parents divorced when I was young, and because they had shared custody, I did not have one home. Grandma’s house always felt like home it was one place that never changed. That was where we spent holidays and birthdays, all of my memories were wrapped up in that house.
When they sold it, it felt like a piece of childhood went with the sale. I remember crying as I helped them finish packing up their moving truck and watched them drive off to their new home, hours away from me.
We did our best to go out as often as possible, and talk on the phone, but as I grew up and started a life of my own the calls became fewer and the visits more rare. I managed to keep up correspondance through letters as my grandmother’s hearing failed her. But after a while, her handwriting got sloppier, there was an obvious shake to it. Her spelling worse and then the letters stopped all together.
It worried me but I was so concerned about my own day to day stresses that I let it go, thinking I’ll call her next weekend and check on her. I told myself this over and over again.
I was naive and thought I had another decade before I would have to worry about losing her. Then grandma had a stroke. I talked to my grandpa on the phone, who assured me she was doing fine. I promised to visit but I never did.
Then she got worse.
Grandma wasn’t acting like herself and refused to go to the doctor. Until one day she collapsed and couldn’t get up again. Grandpa took her to the doctor’s office and they found out she had cancer, very advance and all through out her body. The end was near. My sister and I rushed to see her.
She had wasted away since the last time I had seen her. The stroke had left her disoriented. She had dementia they said. She had faded away into a pale imiation of the woman she had been. Even in the five years since I had seen her at my wedding. She didn’t seem like the same person. But when I walked in she recognized me, and smiled a big toothless smile. And on her turtle neck was her angel pin I remembered so well. I got to say my goodbyes, got to hold her hand for an afternoon before returning to my own life, and my small worries.
Months I waited on that phone call, telling me the end had come. I checked in with my grandpa every few weeks, to see how he was doing. No news was good news it seemed. She was six months in the hospital. There’s a stubborn streak that runs through my family, and my grandmother was the most stubborn of them all.
One year ago, she passed away. It was in part a relief and a feeling like I was a deflated balloon. I loved her more than I can express and knowing that I won’t ever get her back was hard or that I won’t get back that time I wasted thinking she would always be there.
Then just recently I got a call from my grandpa, he was making a surprise visit to me in Southern California. Something he hadn’t done in nearly seven years. Not since him and my grandma had driven down just to watch me get married.
I was excited to see him and then he made one ominous comment over the phone. I have something for you and your sister that your grandma left for you. My grandma had been sick a long time before she ended up in the hospital, her mind being eaten by the dimentia, I couldn’t imagine what she would think to give me.
He set out the next day, I called him in the morning to see when he would arrive, he again mentioned this mysterious delivery which seemed to have prompted his journey to San Diego. He refused to answer questions about his delivery and shrouded it all in mystery. I was intrigued. Could it be one of her pins, or her collection of mouse figurines. Those things I most cherished and made me think of her.
Day arrives that my grandpa shows up, he’s looking healthy if not a bit sad, we talk for a while waiting for my sister to arrive and again he makes mention of this mysterious gift from my grand without elaborating on what it is he is giving me. I shrugged it off, again figuring it was something not worth mentioning. Something so obviously my grandma, that I feel confident I know what it was.
My sister arrives, and after a round of hugs, my grandpa announces he is going to give us what our grandma wanted us to have. We follow him into my driveway where he parked is 2001 Chevy, with the camper on the back he slept in on the way here. He climbs into the back and unlocks a cabinet beneath the bed, and pulls out two large white boxes. As he handed it to me I was surprised by how heavy the box was. It must have weighed ten or more pounds. What could this possible be? It was even taped shut with packing tape. I waddle my way into the house with my heavy box and drop it onto my table which shakes beneath the weight.
My grandpa takes a seat at the table with his tea and drinks as I cut open the packing tape, my curiosity getting the better of me. What could it be?
I open up the box and inside is several rolls of quarters. I blinked for a few minutes as I look at this box filled with currency.
I looked at my grandpa and he gives me a half smile. Your grandma collected all the state quarters, she wanted you and your sister to have them.
I laughed a little. Remembering before my grandparents moved away my interest in collecting the new state quarters. But just like the house my grandparents had lived in, I left it behind, a relic of my childhood. As I reflected later on I remembered all the different ways in which collector coins were sprinkled through out my childhood. It was something she and I had done together, and while I had forgotten about it the way I had neglected to call her, or write like I should. She had preserved that memory of me, when I was a child and we used to collect together.
And that is how I would like to keep her in my mind. My sweet grandma, cheering me on, encouraging me and loving me no matter what. And not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, or look at my state quarters displayed on my office wall.