I guess I was lucky, to live my entire youth with all four of my grandparents. I was able to grow up with energetic grandmas and grandpas around me, giving me all the love and normalcy and care that I could hope for. I had holiday feasts and trips to the fair, and dolls and stern moral reminders and pretty hand-sewn dresses. In a childhood where I didn't have much other solid ground, my grandparents were always consistent- one pair in a rich estate by the lake with untouchable china and daily boating expeditions, the other in a beyond-quaint gingerbread cottage with dormers and a gazebo and more hidden treasures than you could ever find.
As of early this morning, all of my grandparents are gone. My grandma Alice, the "grammo-at-the-lake"of my earliest writings, has quietly left us at the end of months of decline. I'm sure she's glad to have it over. I was able to spend more time with her this summer than I had in nearly a decade... we knew it was probably her last year but we couldn't know how soon after the summer's festivities she would leave us for good. The whole summer was a celebration of her life - the whole family was together for the first time in so long, and we played and partied and squabbled and carried on around her just like old times. I hope she was able to enjoy some of it... maybe at least seeing how close my cousin and I have remained made her happy. It was always impossible to know if she was happy. She was a difficult woman. She lived a life that I can't even imagine, and I'm sure none of us will ever understand what was going on inside her.
But she was a wonderful grandmother. Holidays were a dream and visits were like a storybook. My cousin and I, oblivious I'm sure to all the adult drama going on around us, played and made mischief and grew up and bonded, and we had so much freedom there. You can't imagine the freedom unless you've been there and seen it - a private paradise jutting out into the lake, with a paddleboat and a little miniature playhouse that matched the big house, and porthole-style windows and a huge garden and so many places to hide... I can't imagine my life without it.Grandma and grandpa took us to the pumpkin farm every year, and always took us for the ride on the cart pulled by the big draft horses. They took us to the fair and got us armbands for the rides and let us wear ourselves out running through the funhouses again and again. They had a precious nativity scene that they let us put up every Christmas, and tolerated us sending the baby Jesus doll around the tree on the electric train. They took us on a winter caleche ride once as a surprise, with cocoa and a blanket over our knees. They'd take us out for dinner and get tipsy and silly, and use their spoons as catapults to shoot things at us. Grandma would sew us Christmas dresses and halloween costumes, and gave us pearl necklaces that she'd add another pearl to each year for our birthdays. I wonder if they could ever tell how grateful we were, through all our bad manners and bratty behaviour and tantrums... I'm sure they could. If not at the time, then certainly they know now.
I don't know what else to say - there's so much to say. So many memories, so many feelings, so much nostalgia and regret and gratitude. They used to take us to church whenever they could snatch us away from our atheist parents, and I somehow remember one time in particular, when the sermon was about fear, and how you didn't need to be afraid of anything because you were protected by god. When we got home after lunch, they must have asked us to get something from whatever place we were currently pretending was haunted, and we said we couldn't... we were scared! My grandma laughed at us, asking "how can you be frightened, when the pastor just spent the whole sermon telling you that there's nothing to fear?" I don't know what we answered, but I remember how secure I felt then, hearing her repeat that message, and knowing my fear was only something in my imagination. I wasn't so sure god would protect me, but I was positive that she would.
Rest in peace, grandma, and thank you for everything.