On Memorial Day weekend of 2014, Gema, my grandmother (dad’s side), passed away. It was a hard time for our family.
That weekend, I spent one last afternoon with her at her house, doing most of the talking as she wasn’t feeling well. Her health situation digressed quickly and she passed away a few days after that visit.
On our family’s recent 2015 New Years visit “back home”, I made one last trip to my Grandmother’s house to pick up a few pieces of furniture. It was hard to walk in the door and not see her smiling face at the table, drinking coffee and watching TV. I walked around and cried and gave myself some time to remember….
Remember the creepy cellar and the steps leading down there and the time Uncle Jimmy put a fake hand on the steps for me to find IMMEDIATELY following my Gema telling me a scary story called, “the Green Hand” about a hand that kills people.
Remember late night horror flicks when I was way too young to know who Freddy Krueger was but she would look at the back of the VHS tape in the video store and pretend she had no clue it was a slasher flick as she nodded about “the nice kids on the school bus” and would act so shocked during the movie when they were slashed to death.
Remember Fluffy Macho, the kitten she let me bring home from the park one day when someone was giving away free kittens knowing full well it would probably end up at her house.
Remember waking up as a young kid during sleepovers at Gema’s and being terrified of the horrific thunder outside till I realized the sound was inside the bedroom and was being made by Gema’s teeth grinding which was a trait she lovingly passed on to me so that I think of her whenever I put my night guard in my mouth.
Remember the season that I drove over every Monday night after tutoring so we could watch, “Dancing with the Stars” together and Aunt Norma would call at least once during commercials to talk about the show and check in with us and Gema would always have some sort of snack prepared for me even though she never really ate much of it.
Remember backpacking with her every summer starting when I was around 5 years old and Dana (my brother) was so little that he fell over as soon as they put his backpack on him with his sleeping bag so she had to carry his sleeping bag but off she took us for a 1 mile hike to a shelter to camp overnight and tell us scary stories like, “Mary, Mary, I’m on your first step…” which is one I have creeped out my own children with in memory of Gema.
Remember that she accepted and loved any and all of my friends like Genna and Daisy who she bravely took backpacking with me the summer after our freshman year even though they had never even been camping AND my friend, Julie, whom she drove home the three hours from Ocean City during one family vacation in which they both needed to head out early.
Remember her constantly asking if the boy at my house, or the one in my car, or who called on the phone, or I mentioned in conversation was “cute” or “the one I liked” and if not then I was to tell her “who ya like” and she never really believed that there wasn’t anyone.
Remember her photography, the contests, the winning photos in calendars and the artwork she painted in the house. In her heart, she was an artist and it showed in so many ways in her life.
In fact, I had to take a few pictures of her bathroom wallpaper. She created it herself with bird pictures that she liked from a magazine. It was so “Gema” to me, so I wanted to preserve it somehow and a photo seemed the best way.
And then I shut the door to the house and just cried over the many memories that had surfaced.
Thankfully, I don’t have to shut the door to my memories…