My grandmas are both important figures in my life and who I am as a person. They were both different, but they complemented each other well when we would have large family gatherings, which I always thought was nice.
Summer time was a time when I got to spend more time with my grandmas, but the experience with each of them was just as different.
I was closer to my paternal grandma growing up due to location. We lived in the same town as she did and even lived in her house while we were waiting for our house to be built. She would babysit us, we would go to church together, and we would see her multiple times a week.
My maternal grandma lived 45 minutes away. For a kid, that felt like forever. We saw her a few times a year, but when we saw her, it always seemed like a great time since it was always a party when we came down to visit. Aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas, we seemed to only go there in the summertime.
Once I got my license, I decided to start driving to her town to visit her and help out. It started out in small steps and eventually it grew into more consistent trips down there. She threw garage sales (or yard sales since she didn’t have a garage) and I was always interested in helping out. We never made much because it was hard to find her trailer before Google Maps came along and she only made so many signs to direct people in.
My first job was to put the signs up and then I took on the cashier role. She would get a kick out of me saying to customers “thank you for coming to my grandma’s garage sale!”
While we were waiting for customers to come, we would just sit and chat. I finally got to know her as a person through these chats. She got to know me as me instead of just being a kid. She gave me that sense of autonomy that I didn’t often get with the rest of the family.
Grandma hosted the family reunions for her large family, which was also held during the summer months at a beautiful well-known park in her town. When she threw parties, she was in her element. She loved hosting, she loved conversations, and she loved to dish it out to relatives who would dish it right back.
As I would go to her house by myself or with family during the summer months, you could find her sitting on her deck reading a book or waiting to see who would drive by, swaying on her glider bench. She knew how to make a house a home. She knew how to make anybody feel welcome.
In June 2021, she called me up and I remember talking to her while I was sitting on my front stoop talking about questions she had regarding her funeral (she was planning ahead, thankfully). In July, we drove up to celebrate my brother’s birthday and then to swing down to her town so she could meet her great-grandson so that he could have his own summer chat with great- grandma. She had been looking forward to that day for so long, a day that was postponed due to COVID lockdowns.
That August, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Maybe she had a spidey-sense that she knew something might be coming up?
In June 2022, I sat out in my backyard having a heart-to-heart with her, talking about things that were on my mind and listening to her advice. She asked when we were going to come see her. I said that July was looking great for us and we would be up soon. During that conversation, she told me that she was going to start hospice, but not to worry because she was going to live another 5 years. If anybody could, we thought it was going to be her.
Little did I know that she was going to call me 6 days later and tell me to come home right away. There was just something different in her voice, I felt something could be wrong. I dropped everything and drove 4 hours home. I got to take one last drive to go see Grandma.
I checked into the hotel and went to her house. Between the time I got the phone call to when I arrived, her memory was incredibly foggy and she didn’t know who I was. However, I knew who she was. During that time, I got to have one last earth-bound summer chat with Grandma. I got to tell her how much she meant to me and how she had this knack of making everyone feel like we were her favorite person. She was grateful for that conversation. Then we turned our attention to Steve Harvey on Game Show Network.
Going back there during her passing and the day after, the town felt different. It felt like I no longer had a home base. The town felt empty even though I have many cousins who live right there. It’s amazing how my grandma made a whole town feel like a home.
Now it’s a year later. During these balmy summer days and evenings, my mind drifts off to the porch and wanting to have one more summer conversation with Grandma. The conversations I have with her now are not quite the same, but I sure like to think that she can still hear me and guide me.
And if nothing else, I hope she has an even better porch up there with even more enriching conversations with people she had been wanting to talk to for a long time.