My grandmother passed away today. She was my last living grandparent. I’m forty years old and she was eighty-five years old this morning at 5:30 when she took her last breath. I was her first grandchild.
I write this in Germany at the end of our first week. Gram was thrilled that we were going. Gram had been here before me, of course. She loved to travel and often told me that if I had the chance to go somewhere, I should do it. No matter where. It was the best and likely only advice I ever received from her. In our last phone conversation, about a week before I left, I asked her if she and my grandfather had done much traveling together. She replied that they hadn’t. He was a towering figure, in my memory anyway, who had died way too young. They had seven children together, the oldest being my father, and while they had traveled together as a family going camping or on similar small trips, she and my grandfather never got the chance to travel much alone. After he died, Gram made up for lost time and traveled almost everywhere she could get to, via Elderhostel or with friends and family.
Gram wasn’t an advice giver generally. My grandma believed that people should make their own decisions. She’d disapprove of this person or that for something that they did but as far as I knew, she never said anything negative about it to their face. She was intrepid, in her own way, driving every winter to Florida from the Berkshires by herself, except for this last summer. But Grandma was also predictable. I never called around 7:30 pm because I wouldn’t risk her “wrath” for interrupting Jeopardy! She hated water (who hates water??) but was known to add ice cubes to her Budweiser. Gram was generous to a fault and had loaned me money for grad school classes when I needed it. When I finally had the money to pay her back, she wouldn’t take it. Predictable, generous. That was my grandmother. And now as of today, I have to say “was”. It doesn’t feel wrong but it does feel thick on my tongue as I speak it aloud.
I’m away from my family now and am very selfishly wishing that a celebration or a service of some sort waits until I get back. But I think, too, of her wish that I go far and wide, whenever and wherever I want. And now here I am, in a foreign place seeing new things. I may not be home but I’m right where she wanted me to be. And that does feel good.