Preface: This post has been sitting in drafts for over a month, because I simply haven’t been able to finish it. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me, for as long as I can remember. This post has been sitting in my drafts because I have been afraid to publish it for every single reason under the sun. It’s not my “normal” post. But this blog has followed my life- from marriage to childbirth and everything beyond. I promise I’ll be back to spamming photos of my kids very soon.
On April 7th, my 93 year old grandma passed away. My grandparents were the coolest grandparents ever. I could seriously take up pages upon pages of memories from their annual 4 month long trips to California in their motor home to visit my siblings and me. They always arrived in January, and stayed through my birthday. Maybe because we didn’t have them around all the time, those vacations were sacred to us. Our summer breaks from school were spent driving cross country, and spending time in Michigan visiting them, and experiencing summer time in Michigan on my Grandpa’s boat, and at the lake all day, every day. Evenings were spent with family. My Mom’s only sister had 4 sons, and then the California brood would complete the 7 grandkid gang during visits.
When I was 10, my mom and I moved to Michigan. We lived at my Grandparents house for the short while we were house hunting (they actually let us have the main house, and chose to live in their motor home parked in the yard for those couple months.) I saw them all the time, from there on out. We’d sit in their pew every single Sunday at church. We celebrated every single holiday as a large extended family (even Memorial Day, and every single grandkid and great grandkid’s birthday.) Family functions were (are!) loud, boisterous, and hysterical.
Looking back, I took most of it for granted, as any teenager would probably do. I assumed that all families were as close knit, because it’s all I knew. My grandparents were the backbone of that family bond.
My Grandma was the glue.There was nothing she loved more than spending time with her grandchildren and great grandkids. She was the perfect organizer, and was always there for us with encouraging words, advice, and knowledge. She (tried) to teach me how to sew, and always sneaked me treats and cookies every time I would go over to her house, which was pretty much weekly. I’d pet her head and tell her lovingly, “Hi Little Grandma.” I’m fairly certain I was taller than her by the time I turned 7 years old, but she’d still smirk and call me, “Little Megan.” She absolutely lived for her kids and grandkids, and it was so, so evident in everything she did, every day.
My grandpa would regularly hang out with his grandsons, and spend time with my sister and I doing things that interested us. He helped my sister move into her first college dorm room, gave my brother his first salute when he graduated from Officer’s Candidate School, and he and grandma attended every single school play, basketball game I either played in or cheered for, and especially every concert performance I ever took part in. He died in 2000. William is named after him, and he has some amazing, and giant shoes to fill to live up to his namesake.
After I moved away from Michigan in 2004, I was only able to make the trek back “home” to Michigan a few times. I regret that now, because I wish I had more memories with Grandma as an adult, and especially as a mother myself now. But the few times that I was able to see her, I always made it a point to spend as much time with her as possible, and I usually stayed at her house when all of my siblings and nieces and nephews would roll into town. I always marvelled at Grandma. She never acted old. She lived in a 2 story house, and would climb up and down a steep flight of stairs at the drop of a pin and never, ever complained. I once spoke on the phone to her about a year and a half ago, and she was in the process of trying to cut down some tree branches outside, and was literally annoyed at herself that she didn’t have the strength that year to climb up on a ladder and cut down the branches above her garage with a chainsaw. I’m not making that up. My Grandma could kick your Grandma’s butt.
My mom came to visit my family in Colorado this past November and when she left, she said, “You should really come visit your grandma.” I told Eli that we needed to start saving money, and we tentatively began planning a family vacation to Michigan the following May, once winter was over. That January, Grandma got admitted to the hospital for heart problems, and she just never bounced back. She took a turn for the worse in mid-March, and I literally packed up my kid’s (and my) belongings and jumped in the car two days later and drove from Denver to Michigan, by myself, with both kids. The luxury of being a stay at home mom meant that my schedule was kind of open ended. I was able to see her, and I knew it was the last time I would be seeing her alive. I would go sit with her during the day when both of my kids were napping. I’d hold her hand, try to make her as comfortable as possible, and be her water-hander-over. She even rallied a few times while I was there, and would feel well enough to sit up in a chair, and I was even able to take the kids to the hospital a couple times to visit her.
We left after spending two weeks in Michigan. She died less than two weeks later. My brother and sister and I decided that it was best to travel to Michigan for the funeral without the children, so the three of us camped out at my Mom’s house, and it was fun to spend sibling time with them- which is something that we haven’t done in probably 20 years. The days were spent at the funeral home, and then at the funeral. But the night of her funeral will last in my head forever.
All of the 7 cousins were together, for the first time in 15 years. We all met over at my aunt’s house, just like old times. We ate leftovers, laughed, shared stories, and played games. It was loud, and boisterous, and perfect. It was then that I realized that this gathering was exactly what my grandparents would have wanted. I can see my grandpa now, smiling, turning down his hearing aid (he didn’t need it around this gang) and looking around. Whenever the entire family was together, he would always look at my grandma and smile and say, “and it all started with a milkshake.” She would always tssk and let out her classic, “Beeeiilll” (Bill) in response.
Their first date, he invited her to get a milkshake with him. 73+ years later, this is their legacy. Us. And I am so blessed to have known my grandparents for as long as I did.
It got me thinking; will Eli be saying that to me, one day? I sure hope so.
(Though I highly doubt that “It all started with us watching infomercials on TV with my roommate” has quite the ring to it.)
Rest in peace together, Grandma and Grandpa Z. You’ll always be my inspiration.