Can you believe it's soon going to be ten years? Ten years. It's a span of time that seems so wildly ridiculous to me. I've taken to believing that nothing that's ever happened in my life has occurred outside of the last two or three months. It's a bad habit. Think there's a connection to that and my dreams lately? The ones where I'm always just a little bit late. Just late by that much. What am I forgetting? Why can't I be on time? I've just missed something. Always late. I don't want to be late.
My last memory of you was that day I talked to you on the phone; you were calling from the hospital. You sounded great, actually. Like being in there was the silliest thing in the world. I have to think that you had no idea what was coming, that there wasn't much time left. But I also have to think that it was a little more than luck that I picked up the phone that afternoon. Mom and I got to be maybe the last two people who ever talked to you. It's sad to think about, but I do feel lucky.
The viewing was a joke to me. Not in a "Haha, this is funny" kind of way, but in the way that I was never quite sure if it was real or not. It didn't seem real. I don't want to imply that the people at the funeral home didn't do their job, but they didn't put your glasses on. It's my lasting memory of the day, which makes me laugh a little. Didn't they know? Couldn't someone have told them? Whatever the case, the effect of such was that I'll never go to another viewing of someone I care about. I won't let my last glance at someone I love be of what amounts to a canvas for some guy in a metal basement with clown makeup. You should have been wearing your glasses. Someone should have told them; I should have told them. Too late.
I don't talk about you enough anymore. Sure, when we get together at Christmas or Thanksgiving or whatever random Holiday I'm able to make it back East for the family all babbles on about you and we tell our favorite stories. But beyond that I haven't said much. I should say more. I should tell people. Even if they don't ask. But what would I tell them?
I could talk about the typical grandmother things: nice as a sunny Sunday afternoon, gave great hugs, cooked like a meth-fueled maniac (OK...that one might not be so typical...but neither were your tireless habits in the kitchen). They'd all be great and they'd all be true, but that wouldn't define you. That would just define what grandmotherdom is supposed to be. You were a lot more than that. So I think I would tell some stories.
I think I would tell people about the three summers we spent at your house with you and Pa; Justin, Kyle and I. We'd watch THE PRICE IS RIGHT every morning at 11AM - and then your shows would begin. Except you never watched "TV shows" - you watched "programs", and they weren't even programs. They were "progruhms", and you managed to defy modern physics of speech by somehow turning a two-syllable word into a one-syllable word - still one of my favorite magic tricks. Remember how angry you used to get at THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS? I think you might have externalized your inner monologue the one day you sat up in your chair and spouted at your innocent TV, "Oh! That Victoria is such a BITCH!"
I think I would tell people about the hours upon hours upon hours we used to spend playing Monopoly. I have to tell you, though, I've heard from just about every guy my age that they played Monopoly with their grandmother. Is this something they teach you at Grandmother Training? Sometimes we find that other people did the same things that were thought were special to us. There's a tendency to hurry and take the "Special" label off of them because it just so happened that those other people had a common idea. Maybe grandmothers use Monopoly as their go-to crutch. Hell, I don't know, but when I think back on it...it doesn't seem any less special. You know what they say about the difference between actuality and intent? I think I'll leave that label on for the time being.
I think I would tell people about the way you used to roll and salt my lunchmeat for me. I think I would tell them that your Steak-Ums, somehow, tasted better than any boxed, frozen meat should ever taste. I think I would tell them that you freaked the hell out if one of your Tupperware containers was taken out of the refrigerator and put back on a different shelf. Hey, look, I'm a believer in the "Everything has it's place" school of thought...but you were an Icebox Nazi. You probably know this by now, but it was me who moved the containers around in the refrigerator almost every day that one summer. I'd like to say I'm sorry for that, but...Jesus, it was really goddamned funny. I've never seen anyone get so twisted over the placement of pickles. Just thinking about it now makes me laugh. Even when you weren't trying to you made me smile.
There are a million things I could tell people about you, but I didn't even realize how great you were until you were already gone. Like most things you don't figure out until you're an adult, I think I took you for granted while you were here. I wish I hadn't done that. There it is again...too late.
The day after you died I walked into our kitchen to make a sandwich. I got out the bread, the ham, the mayonnaise, the lettuce; I made one hell of a sandwich. I had just taken it off the counter and made two steps towards the door, my back to the ingredients of said sandwich, and I realized I had left everything open: the bread bag, the lettuce container, the mayonnaise jar, the ham wrapper. I thought to myself, "You had better put that away - Granny would have a fit if you left it like that." Imagine my surprise when I turned around - after no more than three or four seconds had passed - to find the bread closed, the lettuce covered, the cap back on the mayonnaise jar and the ham wrapped and sealed. I was alone in the house. I never ate that sandwich; just didn't seem to have the stomach anymore. I don't tell many people that story. I feel like if I tell it too much the logic of the world will get to me. And then I'll no longer be able to think that you sent a special message that day. Just for me.
You used to wear this incredible perfume that smelled like vanilla. I'll never forget that smell as long as I live; it's ingrained in my memory like my name or the directions to my house. One night I was out somewhere with some friends and I walked past a girl that had the same perfume on. It stopped me in my tracks, a wave of memories sweeping over me in a candied wind. She must have noticed that I was staring at her with a strange smile on my face, because she asked me if I was OK. All I could get out was, "You smell like my grandmother." Now for a twentysomething girl...this can't exactly be taken as a compliment. I can't blame her for storming off in a huff, but had I been able to regain my composure quickly enough I would have told her that, for that brief moment in time, she gave me something that made me perfectly and completely happy. I should have told her all about you, all about what that specific scent meant to me and why it made me so temporarily goofy. But when I came to she had walked away. Dare I say it? I was just a little too late.
There was a song we used to have. It was a simple song but it's the most perfect song I've ever heard. The last time I heard it I was, again, probably too young to appreciate the message you were trying to convey with it. Now I can't hear that song without tears coming to my eyes.
I'm supposed to be a writer. When I'm at parties and I think I need a basis for myself and people ask me what I do, that's what I tell them: I'm a writer. Sometimes I'm convinced it's only half true; I write things, but lately I haven't written much of anything with meaning. It was this thought that worried me when I decided to write to you tonight. I was too late to ever tell you how important you were to me, how my world revolved around you and how I thought the sun and the moon rose and set in your eyes. And I worried most of all that even with my advanced vocabulary, with all the words I know and know how to use, with all of the flowery and unimportant adjectives I can conjure, I could never, ever tell you how much I love(d) you. I was worried they didn't make a word for that.
There's a lot about the world of which I'm still clueless. Some days I'm convinced it's a total myth, but on my better days I'd like to believe there's a Heaven. I don't know what it is or what's there. Maybe someday I'll find out. But you know what I want Heaven to be?
I want to be just big enough to be sitting on the blue carpet in your living room, my head barely reaching high enough to be eye-level with the television. I want you to pull out that big old Disney book you had and tell me you'll read to me. Pa will help me crawl up on your lap and then he'll go back to his burnt orange chair, light up a cigar, wiggle his toes a few times and then smile at me. I fit perfectly in between your hip and your shoulder, so I'll curl up in that nook as you narrate, for the millionth time, the story of Pinocchio. My eyes will get heavy and start to slowly close as soon as Pinocchio and his friend are turned into donkeys, but you'll keep reading anyway. A few minutes later Pa will wake me up on his way to bed, mess my hair, kiss me on the forehead and tell me goodnight. I'll be sleepy still, so you'll put the book down. You'll hug me tight. I'll close my eyes again. And you'll sing to me...
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy...when skies are gray.
You'll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take...my sunshine...away.
I know I don't have to worry: they don't make a word or a phrase to tell someone you love without any known depths how much you love them - you find a word or phrase that signifies that and you apply it. It's pretty simple, really, and now I know that your song to me was the purest form of love that exists in the world. Maybe I can't tell you how much I love you in one word or two words or three words or four words, but I can definitely do it in five:
You are my sunshine too.
The one thing I always tell a friend who's lost a love one is that, while there's time to be sad and grieve, the one thought that helps you get on better than anything is that, while it's sad that the person is gone and will be missed, it should be considered a pretty grand stroke of luck that you got to know such a wonderful soul while they were here. It's one thing to say and another thing to feel - and the tears seem to be set on "flow" tonight. I miss your jokes; I miss your laugh; I miss your applesauce; I miss your Frankenstein boots; I miss your Rocket Chair; I miss your Christmas stockings; I miss seeing you on bright summer mornings; I miss your hugs.
God, I miss you, and it compels me to promise you a promise that I promise to the God of Promises I will never break: I've got a long, winding road to travel and a long time to travel it, but though I won't see you any more in this life, I'll see you in the next.
I won't be late.
Still your sunshine,