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"How did I get so lucky?"

We all process grief in our own ways.

As soon as the initial waves of sobbing and sorrow weaken, and it’s time to get up… me, well, I become firmly rooted in denial.

My body feels almost light as I begin to get the house ready for my departure back East. I’m confused by a slightly giddy excitement, that conditioned feeling of “I’m going home! It’s Thanksgiving! We’re going to Grandma’s!!” that usually accompanies this ritual.

It’s as if my brain doesn’t have the heart to tell my body that, well, actually, Grandma isn’t going to be there this time.

One part of me wants to scold my body for its confusion. But the other says, It’s OK, Dina. Feel it.

Because I am so lucky.

So lucky that, firmly into my 30s, I still get excited to see my Grandma. My *family*. And all of ‘em.

Sure, I complain sometimes, and, like everybody, we’re all fucked up and kinda different from each other in weird ways, but then again, similar to each other in even weirder ones. They’re people who sometimes I think don’t get me at all, yet, suddenly, sometimes, totally get me, in that same, weird way.

Mine is the kind of family where the “kids” at the kids’ table now range from out of college and settling down to approaching middle-age, with kids themselves. Where every holiday has its special dishes -- and the one time we tried to give Grandma a break from cooking by ordering in the Italian food instead, we all pretended it was great but secretly complained to each other and the next year, everyone made a dish using the family recipes. We tell the same jokes each year and recount stories with forks in our hands, growing louder as the night wears on. We joke and tease but only up to a point: at the end, it’s only kindness. In the end, we are there for each other.

And so, yes, I’m in denial, a sort of haze, as I pack my things, as I finish homework and tie up group projects, as I rearrange flights and take a night and a day to get to the East Coast, as I recover from jet lag, as I fret over the bags under my eyes and wonder if my outfit is going to be appropriate.

It feels as if I’m getting ready to head up to Grandma’s for The-Day-Before-Thanksgiving, as usual: my yearly tradition where I go up early to see Grandma & Aunt Connie, all by myself, before driving them down for Thanksgiving Day in New Jersey. It’s my special time, and I’m honored that they want me to themselves, too. That it’s become our ritual.

I imagine Grandma greeting me at the door: “Hiya, Sweethaaart!” in her distinctive accent. “Oh, I love ya.” with a two-handed kiss. I imagine the discussion between Grandma and Aunt Connie as I put my bag down. Will Grandma cluck with worry again this year, “Ooh, you’re so skinny. How come you don’t eat?” with Aunt Connie countering, “Oh no, look at her, she’s so nice and thin, I don’t know how you do it.” (This, perhaps, may be the only thing I’ve ever heard them disagree on.)

This was my Grandma, to a T: upfront, direct, and honest. Concerned, and kind, you could always count on Grandma to speak her mind, yet always with your best interest at heart.

I can’t walk in the door of that split-ranch house, where it seems nothing has changed since my birth except the plastic on the couch (thankfully removed sometime in the ‘80s), without being led instantly to the table. Rest room permission slips happen only after one has downed a quick piece of soppresotta. There’s always apple juice for me – my favorite, and they’ve never once forgotten. They delight in making our favorite foods, hearing our stories.

If there’s one word I can use to describe Grandma’s house (“never hungry” is two words), it’s safe. Talking with Grandma and Aunt Connie is like slipping into a simpler time. Stay warm. Go to sleep early. Did you have enough to eat? Here’s another blanket. There’s no clutter in the house, just 800 family photos and always so many cards, no matter the time of year – Easter, birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day. I’m always struck by how many friends Grandma and Aunt Connie have, how many people are thinking of them.

Grandma turned 93 last summer. Although she finally agreed to get a cane (“It’ll make me look old!” she’d protested), and eventually a walker, more often than not she’d walk supported by a loved one on each arm. On her birthday, as we walked, I remember her tearing up, as she spoke to Aunt Connie and me.

“Oh, well,” Grandma sighed in her characteristic way. “Ninety-three. I’m so old!” We took another step, walking along, slowly.

“What a life. I’ve got 4 wonderful children. Such wonderful children. And my wonderful grandchildren. And my great-grandchildren.” She paused, and held my arm tightly. “How did I get so lucky?”

And how, Grandma, did we?

I miss you already.

Comments

spiffie101
Dec. 20th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Feeling it now is best. Let it out. It's okay :)
pombagira
Dec. 21st, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
grandma's and Nana's will always be missed, i still miss mine and 13 years later i can still here her advice's whispered in my ear, .. .. and still make a pot of tea the way she taught me.. *nods*


(((hugs))