I’m sitting here as the snowstorm starts and I’m reading messages from home. They say things like “hospice starting” and “deteriorating faster than expected.”
The children are all waking up and getting breakfast and squabbling. The baby nurses while I read and he kicks contently. Life is awake and loud and busy and my grandmother is going to die soon. I just want to be still and quiet and cry. Most of all I want to be on a different hill. I want to walk through an always unlocked door and see a fat dog and a very fat cat and hear my grandfather say, “Well, hello there!” and I want to hug my Grammy.
And as if things couldn’t get any harder, I have to make whoopie pies today. It’s been years and a few weeks ago my husband mentioned he’d like them. My ten year old earned a dessert and game night and he remembered. “Mom, I think I want whoopie pies for my dessert night tonight. I don’t know what game I want to play. Maybe that one with the pile of cards you have to get rid of… what is that called?”
Skip-Bo. Really, Lord? You want me to make whoopie pies and play Skip-Bo tonight?
I remember waking up. The tick of the grandfather clock was loud and the gong every hour made life feel safe and predictable. No matter how early I walked in the kitchen Grammy was baking. I remember whoopie pies on the counter and then wrapped in plastic wrap and some large ones placed in the mailbox for the mailman. Years later they made their way postage paid to my house too far away.
When Grammy finds out you like something you will have an endless supply. There have been years and years of hamburg soup. We would drive and drive and walk through the door with children dispersing through the house with toys and things for little hands to play with in corners and behind doors and the quiet house would be loud and Grammy would tell me to sit down and there would be hamburg soup and I would be eight years old again and nothing had changed and everything was home and safe and unending.
I don’t want endings. I want home and safe and forever.
The kids are asking why I cry. The baby laughs as he looks at me and pinches my cheeks.
Grammy hasn’t held the baby yet. He was born and I dread the long drive and I should have gone anyway. I have to tear myself away from what should have been and remember what is. He hasn’t been through the door at Grammy’s house but he’s part of there.
My sisters sit and look at photo albums with Grammy. Albums full of parents and cousins and aunts and babies and all of us. There are so many stories. Some to make you laugh, some to make you cry and some you don’t mention. Stories of a family; real and hard and sad and beautiful. There are faces of people that are away now. Maybe I feel especially part of them because I am away. Grammy’s only sister, her only daughter, her oldest grandson, my other grandmother who was her dear friend and so many others. I feel the ache of being away from Grammy and feel myself there even though I’m physically far away and I wonder if that’s how it is for them as well. Only I’m aching a goodbye and they are aching with an impending welcome.
Someone needs help with their word problems. Something about a dog chasing squirrels on a Tuesday and I want to tell the boy that it doesn’t matter. There is life and it is precious and there is Heaven and it will be here so soon and squirrels on a Tuesday and how to add don’t matter. But, I don’t say it. I read the problem and we talk about it and it matters.
I’m going to cry sometimes today and I’m going to wish I were sitting on the couch with my Grammy and that the grandfather clock hadn’t ticked so fast. I’m going to wish that time could stand still and I’m going to wish that it would be over and that it would finally be safe and together and home and forever.
I’m also going to do what Grammy always has done and what mothers and grandmothers always do. My heart is going to ache with love that sometimes feels painful and my hands are going to be busy with love that mops floors and reads stories and laughs at things the three year old says and cheers with the baby when he claps his hands and smile with tears in my eyes. And this afternoon I’m going to get out a recipe copied from a card in my Grammy’s recipe box and the jar of Marshmallow Fluff and baking cocoa and I’m going to make whoopie pies. Tonight I’ll sit down at a table that’s full of somebody’s great grandchildren and play my grandmother in Heaven’s favorite game, Skip-Bo, and eat whoopie pies and think of my Grammy on a hill in the same snowstorm that’s sending down flakes out our window. I’m going to hold close the babies that are part of me and part of them and know that they are both near and we’re together and there is something that is already forever.