Grammy was so happy on our family trips to the Finger Lakes. She’d bravely come canoeing with us, and stay up late to watch movies with us – my mom would ask her “do you want to go to bed” and she’d keep saying no, not wanting to go before the rest of us. And then she’d end up napping in the daytime right in the middle of all of us talking and playing guitar and cooking and laughing around her.
On our last day at the lake last May, as we were all busy running around packing up and loading the cars, she was on the back deck watching a family at the dock next to ours load their little boy and labrador retriever into their boat. As the family took off out onto the lake, she got very animated and began to bid them farewell. She was standing up and yelling “bye” “bye” over and over and waving and smiling, and then she sang them her signature “off we go into the wild blue yonder” as they departed the shore. Inside we all paused to watch her and smile at each other – enjoying this slightly crazy but un-self-consciously generous and full-hearted send off to this family of people she didn’t know.
She was such a part of us, such a part of our daily lives for so many years. She was at all our graduations, all the football games, baseball games, softball games, and she hosted all the pool parties after the games. She was there for our annual Boutique at the Rink sales, and our New Year’s Eve Sherlock Holmes viewings, all the weekend movie nights at my mom’s with ice cream sundaes, of course, all the random afternoon chit chats in my mom’s dining room, watching over me as she taught me how to make vegetarian PA Dutch filling – it’s an oral recipe, you can’t write it down – happy to greet me on my trips walking a mug full of Brad’s hot coffee, her favorite kind, over to her house, and the accidental meetings on the way to and from our cars once she became my neighbor.
Always hearing her sing "Here She Comes Miss America" whenever I walk into the room, doing puzzles together, sitting on her lap in the car when she and my mom would go to pick up peanuts when I was very little (and there were no car seat laws), her driving the egg McMuffins and milkshake breakfasts made by Pop over to us on Sunday mornings, sleeping in between her and Pop if I had nightmares during a sleepover when I was little, and so many more.
Most of my ideas about mothers and daughters come from the relationship between mom and Grammy. We were lucky enough to grow up with the stories of them ordering tea and pancakes at Perkins after their Christmas shopping, hearing them talk late into the night while sharing a bed at the cabin, watching them dance together to Patsy Cline in my living room. I never heard them fight; they just took care of each other, unconditionally.
She was so much of a presence in our lives in these and so many other ways, that I can’t bring myself to imagine her gone. Instead I imagine she’s just standing on a different shoreline now. The sun is brightly shining, and I can hear the sound of the water lapping gently on the dock. I imagine that if I look up from my day to day activities, I’ll see her smiling and waving on the deck, hear the sound of her voice singing from across the distance, just like she was that day back in May.
She didn’t want to be the first one to leave the party, but she was so brave to go on ahead without us. We were blessed to have all these years, and blessed too that she held us in the beginning of our lives, and that we were able to hold her at the end of hers. All I can think to do now is to live a life that is worthy of her slightly crazy, but un-self-consciously generous and full-hearted send off, trusting that we will meet again, on that distant shoreline, off in the wild blue yonder.