Reflections of my grandmother on the night of her birthday
I don't really DO 4th of July (fireworks are loud and hearing loss and anxiety are real). My late grandmother was born on July 4th, 1937 and so the day has ALWAYS really been about her.
- •Despite having a hazel-eyed sperm donor, my siblings and I all have her eyes... round, chocolate colored, and either full of love or full of piss depending on the moment.Every time I look in the mirror for more than a quick unibrow scan, I think "Hey, you've inherited the STRONG genes, too."
- •She was from a coal mining community in the west part of Virginia...But if you ever asked if she meant "WEST Virginia," she'd hit you with the fly swatter.
- •Spending nights with she and my grampa meant primetime line ups of Jake and the Fat Man, McGuyver, Empty Nest and, of course, Golden Girls.I was 4-6 years old... No need to explain the violence or sex jokes.
- •Baths at her house always consisted of old-school, orange colored DIAL soap, followed by a generous slathering of the original, cherry almond scented Jergens.
- •She could be extremely perceptive and in tune with your feelings.One year, at Christmas, my boyfriend at the time promised me a BIG gift. When he presented me with fancy beer glasses at my grandparents' house, my grandmother took me aside and said "I know you wanted a ring. That will come next." It did.
- •She could also be incredibly cruel...She hated animals, non-family or church-friend humans, and whimsy. She would hide beloved stuff animals, read diaries and would proceed to rip out pages she detested, and throw the TV Guide at grandchildren who were being too loud.
- •She was socially anxious, preferring a small, select group of family. Anything more than that made her viciously crabby.
- •She suffered a collapsed lung, a major stroke and cardiac arrest in the same evening in 2002. After two months in a coma, and many weeks of rehab, she came home and was never really the same. That wasn't a bad thing, because she became a more loving and perceptive version of herself.
- •The smell of freshly lit cigarettes mixed with brewing coffee and sizzling bacon is awesome, nostalgic and makes me feel safe. I haven't experienced that mix of scents since Michigan did away with smoking sections.
- •A teeny tiny cold took her out... settled in her battered lungs, and after a fierce, painful battle which ravaged her already tiny body, illness took her from us in 2009.
- •I couldn't deal with the sight of her at the funeral. Her jaw looked strange, her face a little too fresh and waxy... my mom took advantage of grandma's state of repose to have her put into a pink dress she HATES but my mother adored.My grandmother got even by poltergeisting the shit out of my mom. For realsies. But that's another li.st for another day.