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Posts Tagged ‘England’

I miss my grandparents the most during the holidays.

 

My maternal grandparents were never physically present during the holidays: they lived in England and, so far as I know, never visited over the holidays. I do remember seeing the Illuminations at least once: I was bundled up in a hat and coat, my grandpa was driving, and the lights swirled over me like a fantasy. Given that the Illuminations switch on late August or early September and run for 60 days, it’s doubtful we were there any later than early September, and it’s even more doubtful I was wearing a winter coat and hat.  But that memory is bundled up with my ideas of Christmas: to me, the lights were magic, and until I was 12 (yes, 12), Christmas was magical.

(To my siblings and parents–if you read this–I am fully aware I am probably jumbling several different visits. I don’t care. Don’t call/email/FB/text/twitter me to correct me.  Let me have this….)

 

Grandma in the 50's

My paternal grandfather died before I was born, but my paternal grandmother was a fixture at holiday dinners. Every year, she would announce that year was to be her last year on this Earth, and then, as if to make that prediction certain, she would smoke a pack and a half of cigarettes before the day was out.  I loved her, though, and as I got older, I even came to like her for reasons all my own. The last time I saw her was at the office supply store where she was doing administrative work some six months before she died. Grandma had always been petite, but somehow as I got older she got smaller, even though in truth we were the same size. She was wearing a beret-type hat she had knitted herself. She made all my mittens for me growing up. I don’t know why I didn’t keep them.

My maternal grandfather had died in between the time Grandma and I had last seen each other, and she offered her sympathies.Then she said, “I envy him. I wish I could let go. I really do.” I understood this not to be a moment of suicidal longing or depression so much as an honest admission of weariness.  She was in her seventies, not in good health, and she’d survived so many more Christmases and Thanksgivings then she’d ever expected to. She had at least two grandchildren, and I think she’d given up hoping I would gift her with another one soon (“What are you waiting for?” she asked me once. “To grow up,” I said. “You already are,” she said with a cigarette-smokers laugh. “You’re just afraid to accept it.”).

I hugged her that day, wrapping my arms around her thin body, told her that she would know when the time was right.

That following December, she died while I was in L.A. I knew before I was told. I don’t know how. I just did. I almost called my parents while I was still there, but there was no point: I wasn’t going to cut my trip short. It was Grandma’s time, and she knew that better than anyone.

I don’t remember when my Nana died. She was one of the most influential people in my life, but I cannot remember when she died. When my grandfather died, I had just come out of the shower, and I almost didn’t answer  the phone but I felt I should. I had a pink towel wrapped around my hair and my blue robe on. The sun was out.  I hung up and cried on the floor.

But my Nana–I have no clue. I remember needing to go to the ocean. We drove up to Whidbey Island the next weekend and I walked along the

 

Grandpa and Nana in the 40's

beach for a long time. I always figured she would linger with me for awhile, like other family members have. But maybe she didn’t need to stick around: she had introduced me to Agatha Christie and Barbara Vine, P.D. James and and Minette Walters. I still have all the books she bought me. My son has just started reading my worn-to-tatters Agatha Christies. Not for nothing were all the books she sent me female authors: she completely believed in my writing goals. Almost every Christmas brought a package of books along with a hand-knitted sweater. I wore the sweaters even past the point when I was well aware I looked like a dork.

I was OK with being a dork.

Today, my grandparents’ influences on me run through my blood, shape my thoughts, echo in my heart. But I still miss them. Especially today.

 

Grandpa and Nana in the 90's

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