I’m Nathan, and this is how I roll-minisce.
Thirteen years ago today, one of the most important people in my life passed away. She was kind, caring, compassionate. She was also iron-fisted, opinionated, and strong. She was the oldest kid I ever knew, but she was also one of the wisest adults.
She was supposed to live forever.
She was my grandmother.
I was 13 years old at the time. And she was my best friend. She lived next door, so I had the opportunity to see her almost every day. If I didn’t see her, I at least talked to her.
We drove each other crazy sometimes. I’ve heard stories about how, when I was quite young, I’d storm out of the house and walk towards my own…then return a few minutes later to play.
She loved board games, card games, blowing bubbles, sledding, playing with action figures, watching “Bananas in Pajamas” and “Escape to Witch Mountain,” hiding Easter eggs even if it had snowed. She let me pretend to cut her hair and build forts and play superheroes. She played a mean game of Go Fish, Monopoly Junior, and Sorry!
She never let me win, even though I was a horrible loser. She was never easy on me. She told everything exactly as it was. Often, she hurt my feelings. Sometimes, perhaps, she was too rough.
And I’d give anything to have her back.
I remember the evening she died very clearly. She’d been in the hospital, and perhaps to sugar-coat things, people told me she was getting a little better. I remember when the phone rang and Mom answered it. I remember her quoting my aunt as she told my father, “Mum is dying.” I ran my room, buried my head in my pillow, and cried.
My dad rushed off to be with her, hoping to make it to the hospital before she died. After I emerged from my room, I sat with my mother and watched “Home Improvement,” waiting for news. I even laughed at some of the jokes. But none of them were funny that night.
I was angry at myself for not going to see her in the hospital, angry at my parents for not asking me if I wanted to go, angry once more at myself because I probably would’ve said no. I was livid that no one had been honest with me about her condition. I was upset that it was her and not my grandfather, though I loved him, too, but he was miserable his entire life and pretty much just waiting to die, whereas she wanted to live for a hundred years and if she liked it, shoot for a hundred more.
I had nothing to do with the funeral. I didn’t want to see her that way. And I knew she’d wanted to be cremated, but Grandpap buried her anyway.
Even that night, when my rather large family gathered at their house, I refused to go over for a while. I stayed, watching them from a distance, steeling myself. Then I walked over.
I remember them telling stories about Grandma. I remember my aunt – with whom I am quite close now, but not so much at the time – giving me a hug and telling me she loved me.
And I remember how empty I felt for a long time afterwards. And how lonely. I hadn’t just lost my best friend. I’d lost one of my only friends.
I often wonder how different my life would’ve been if she had stuck around. And different it would indeed have been. She would’ve pushed me to be better than I was. She would’ve helped me survive the turmoil of my high-school years. She would’ve helped me feel comfortable being me.
And, in all likelihood, she would’ve made me cry on more than one occasion. Just like I am right now as I write this. But these are good tears.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her. And not a day goes by that she doesn’t make me smile, even now.
I love you, Grandma. Always have, always will. And though I hope the day we see each other again doesn’t come for a long time, I look forward to it nonetheless.
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