The aroma of vanilla extract and warm sugar filled the kitchen as she made my favorite breakfast, Swedish pancakes. She never balked at the fact that I’d eat about six of them until my stomach couldn’t take anymore.
Set up like a queen at the kitchen Island counter with the placemat already set out, she’d warmed the syrup and filled a glass with ice cold milk.
I was seven.
I could get used to this.
Sitting at a wooden desk with my binder in front, anxiously tapping my pencil until the clock struck 11am and the Field Trip would begin, I kept my eye on the door. The parent volunteers would be arriving soon. Cars would fill-up based on each fourth-graders preference, but I was unfazed. I knew we’d all flock to her car first.
I was ten.
I was used to this.
Because my mom worked full-time, my Gran would fill in as a room mom. I was so proud to have her show up and take that involvement in my life. All my friends loved her. We ran to her.
She was my sparkle girl; my Gran.
Others had Grandmas. I had a Gran. Theirs drove Buicks. Mine rolled a Datsun 280Z with T-tops that she’d take off so the wind blew in our hair as we listened to Neil Diamond.
When we would visit her house for dinners, her garage door would always be open. Its as if the front door wasn’t a big enough welcome for the ones she loved. Nope. The garage door needed to be open as well. It was her way of saying to the neighborhood: My company is coming! Welcome!!! And when we’d leave? She’d walk us out to the driveway and chat some more. We’d put the key in the ignition and she’d wave. Then she’d walk to the street and wave some more. Until our car was out of view. My guess is she still lingered there a minute longer after we were gone.
There was never a birthday she missed. She’d time it so the Hallmark card would arrive in your mailbox perfectly on the day. How did she know? Never a day early. Never a day late. It was slightly annoying.
Id find cards in my mailbox for holidays I didn’t know existed. Just her way of saying hello. She’d underline adjectives and put quotation marks around the words she wanted to enhance. I’d tease her about her improper grammar. She was unfazed.
Her love for all things glitter and gold has somehow skipped a generation (Mom!) and found its way to me. My Gran and I are Nordstrom girls, through and through. They know us by name there. I remember when I told her I was dating Joel back-in-the-day. “He works for Nordstrom, Gran,” and then I whispered, “I’m gonna marry this man. He gets a discount.”
I couldn’t tell if she was proud or jealous. Probably both.
My Gran had her share of a battle over these last seven years as she fought that ovarian cancer. Sometimes I think I gave her too much credit for how well she was doing because she kept up appearances so well. I think that was why I was surprised a few weeks ago to get the call from my mom.
“Sarah, she’s in the hospital. Sweetheart, this time she’s not going to recover.”
It was the phone call I’d been preparing for but was still blindsided by.
As I drove to the hospital, I prayed that God would prepare my heart. I asked him for one last moment to tell her how much I loved her. I’d been so busy these past few years; I hadn’t stopped by enough! I hadn’t done enough for her! Did she know how much she meant to me? How did I let this much time go by without telling her? And now it was too late. So much left to say.
I started talking out loud, through tears, in the car. “Gran! How many childhood memories I have of your laughter! Your cooking! And no one can give a hug like you. I practically get lost in you when you hug me!"
But those hugs are different now. She used to be sorta squishy and bosomy – you know the type – when you’re a little kid and your Grandma comes barreling at you wanting to kiss and hug and you’re just supposed to stand there and let her do it but you secretly like it? Now, with the cancer, her body is no longer what it was. And I’m no longer this tiny granddaughter. Time has this way of marching on; of changing us. And yet, we’re still the same. How did we come to this final moment so quickly? Isn’t she still healthy and vibrant? Aren’t I still eight years old?
At her bedside, I held her hand and kissed her face and snuggled her. I all but crawled into that hospital bed with her.
“Gran. I love you. I’m so sorry I’ve been so busy. I’m not too busy now. I am here now. I love you so much.”
She heard me. She squeezed my hand.
Her memorial is this Sunday. I have a feeling its going to be bigger than we are expecting; she was loved by so many. I will be dressed in a Nordstrom dress with just the right amount of sparkle. The key piece of jewelry will be a sapphire and diamond ring on my right hand which has been my favorite of hers since I was five. She gave it to me last Christmas – she must have known in her soul it would be her last.
For a woman who loved sparkle so much, Gran, you have quite the view now, don’t you? I hear the streets are made of gold.