RelativityPosted: March 20, 2012
I have only one memory of a great-grandparent. My mother’s mother’s mother was named Gladys, and she let me have Frosted Flakes. I was probably four years old. That was a pretty big deal, because we didn’t have any ‘fancy’ cereal at my house, only Kix and Cheerios and Grape-Nuts.
She died when I was fifteen, and visiting my maternal grandparents. I felt so lost and guilty, because my aunts and my grandmother were so grief-stricken, but I could only cry for their pain, I couldn’t mourn someone I never knew. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel, I only felt that how I felt was insignificant compared to their sorrow.
I met my mother’s biological father when he and his wife came to my mother’s second wedding. They brought my sister and me gummy fruit snacks. I was eleven. He was never my grandpa. I don’t know how long it’s been since someone’s heard from him.
My grandpa was Grandpa Bill. He was an engineer, and I used to think that meant a train conductor. I have to admit, when I was a kid, that was way cooler than rocket scientist. He was a clown, makeup and all, and his favorite exclamation was ‘cheese and crackers!’ We lost him two days before my twenty-first birthday, in 1999.
His wife was Grandma Betty, my mom’s mom. She was such a short lady to have such tall daughters and granddaughters, and she loved to laugh. She was so hollow without Grandpa Bill. My husband got to meet her in 2009, not long before she died, when she came down to my mom’s for a visit.
My father’s father was Grandpa Jonas. He and my grandmother lived in St Croix for most of my life, until they decided to go back to the mainland in 2003. My father sent me to help them close the book on their island life. My grandpa and I went to beach bars to drink vodka and swim. I took care of the swimming, he drank most of the vodka. He was born in Lithuania, and when we lost him in 2010, his children brought his ashes back there.
My Latvian Grandma Inez is all I have left. Her whole life has been about her family. She’s probably racked up more frequent flyer miles than plenty of Fortune 500 CEOs. My sister and I saw her almost every summer we spent with our dad. One day my dad and stepmom were at work, and she walked my sister, our friend, and me five miles each way to the lake to go swimming.
I have so many pillows, and bags, and even a quilt she sewed. She’s made all her own clothes for as long as I can remember, and when my sister came down in December, she brought some pants Grandma had made for our daughter that she won’t fit in for probably two more years.
Grandma also made this placemat for her, because if you’re not eating five meals a day, you’re wasting away. Grandma’s explanation of how to use it: ‘She can eat her cereal on one side and look at these bears, then she can move her bowl to the other side and look at these bears.’ I can hear it in her voice now.
Three weeks ago we found out she has cancer and a lung infection, which are canceling out each others’ treatment. Today the doctors are sending her home to die. They gave her about two weeks. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to Virginia to see her. I love her so much, and I want her to know that. I just have to hope that maybe, since I haven’t gotten my miracle yet, it was being saved for her instead. But mostly I fear that it wasn’t.
I wish that my children could have met any of these wonderful people. I don’t understand why I got Frosted Flakes, and my children will only have secondhand memories.
At least I can guarantee that they get secondhand memories, and make sure that they know about the people who helped me be here today.
I miss my family.