In the summer of 2008, I lost my Gram. Frankly, it's a loss I am still trying to process. Outside of my mom and dad, she was the relative I was closest to and some days I struggle with the fact that she's gone. My Grandmother meant the world to me. My mother was an only child, so me and my brother were her only grandchildren. That's a great set up if you can get it, I highly recommend it. They also happened to live about 5 minutes from my parents' house, so I spent quite a bit of time with her and my Pop-Pop at their house. She was my partner in crime -- when I was old enough to use the phone, whenever my little brother was annoying me, I would call her telling him I was calling Santa. I ratted him out, she was initially upset on the other line for being used but always laughed in the end.
My Gram was a tough lady -- she liked things a certain way. I lived with her for all of my summers growing up when I stayed at her beach house. That's when I learned to make my bed every day -- and today, it doesn't matter how late I may be, my bed is made before I leave for work. She also would not let me have a soda before noon -- I can't say she would approve of my early morning diet coke habit.
She valued a orderly home and we all fell in line. She put up little laminated notes everywhere: "remember to turn out the light when you leave", "put empty cans in the recycling", "pull up the door." She was efficient to a fault. My family will still joke about how she used to consolidate items for the sake of saving space -- a half bag of doritos and a half bag of potato chips would be married together in the name of a more orderly and neat kitchen. I think she even consolidated chunky and smooth peanut butter jars for the sake of saving space.
She remembered everything -- every birthday, every anniversary, every person she met, every recipe. Maybe that's why it hurt so much that she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I had been really upset by bouts before -- a Thanksgiving trip when she didn't know where we were started us all to worry. It progressed because that's what happens, you can't stop the disease. It felt like each year I lost more of her. I can't put into words how hard it is to lose someone mentally while still having them physically there. You go to see them each time never knowing if they will remember you and know who you are. I also can't put into words my feeling of loss, not taking the time to hug my gram and tell her I loved her the last time I saw her at my brother's wedding. There was no way for me to know that was the last time I would see her. But that still upsets me to this day and I don't think I will ever forgive myself.
She was tough, but she was the best. And I know I have a lot of her in me and I am beyond lucky for that.