Author’s Note: This blog post will be discussing death, which is a sensitive subject and can be doubly hard around the holidays. I wanted to give a trigger warning in case this is one you would rather skip until later.
Tuesday, December 27th would have been my grandmother’s 88th birthday. I had every intention of writing this post in advance, to post on her birthday, but I struggled to write it. Even now, I’m not sure if it’ll come out making much sense at all.
My grandmother passed away 17 years ago, which I think we can all agree is a long time. She passed away September 12th, 1999, which made Thanksgiving that year particularly hard.
Growing up, I was very close to my grandma (my mom’s mom) – she lived down the street from us when we were living in Hornick, IA. There were many days I would brave the stretch of sidewalk I liked to call “grasshopper hell” (seriously, you couldn’t walk down this stretch of sidewalk without at least 1 grasshopper jumping at you) to go visit my grandma.
I remember most fondly her big porch swing, where we would sit in the summer, sometimes if I was good while eating Snackwell Sandwich Cookies as her many adopted cats roamed the yard in search of prey.
There are many things I remember about her house and her in particular that stick out in stark relief in my mind:
- the small bottle of ketchup she’d keep in her fridge, just for us grandkids, even though she hated the stuff
- porcelain cats and bear statues that we played with, along with ancient toy John Deere tractors
- her white toast which was always PERFECTLY toasted, with the butter soaked into it (I have NEVER been able to recreate her toast after years of trying)
- the VHS copy of “The Lion King” that she kept at her house for us, because it was our favorite movie
- her copy of “Little Black Sambo,” which I realize today is HORRIBLY racist, but growing up was one of my favorite books to read at her house
- ruining Halloween for everyone by putting Runts candy up my nose one year when I was 3-4 after getting it at her house. Every year after that she handed out pencils
- “borrowing” my late grandpa’s pocket knife so I could carve my and my sister’s initials into the bark of the ancient crabapple tree in her backyard
- her orange Mustang, which had orange seats and was the coolest car I’d ever seen. It spent most of its life in her garage, but every once in awhile we got to ride in it, and it was AMAZING
- putting makeup on her and laughing together when we discovered she looked more like a clown than a fancy model
- the time she borrowed my uncle’s shotgun to shoot a possum that had been eating her cat’s food (she propped it up on a chair so she could aim at the thing before blowing it sky high)
- her smell
- the softness of her cheek
- her no-nonsense attitude
Part of why I’ve waited to write this post until recently is because, as of this year, my grandma has been gone longer than she was alive, at least in the time that I’d known her. For some reason, it hit me really hard this year when my birthday came around, and I worried that as the years continued to come and go, that my memories of her would become nothing more than vague shadows.
Last year, on my 32nd birthday, we went to the Mall of America to celebrate – I had an agenda and plan for my birthday that I was excited to execute, even though life had other plans.
The restaurant I wanted to eat at? Closed.
Build-a-Bear Workshop? Closed for renovation.
And to add fuel to the fire, I had misplaced my wallet and spiraled into a complete meltdown.
It wasn’t the thought that I had lost my credit cards or whatever cash may have been in there – no, it was the idea that I had lost this:
After my grandma passed away, we went to her house – I couldn’t tell you if it was the day of the funeral or if it was sometime after. She always kept her keys and things on hooks on the wall in her laundry room, and I happened to see her old badge for MCI (remember when they were a big deal?) hanging there. For some inexplicable reason, I NEEDED to have it, so I asked my mom if it was okay if I kept it.
Since then, it has been with me, from the age of 16 to now, and no matter what wallet I use, I ALWAYS put her badge in it and keep it with me. And the idea that I could have lost it, lost HER, on my birthday of all days, was just too much to bear.
There are times when I am reminded, even though I already know, that she’s not here: she missed my first boyfriend (thank GOD), my high school graduation, college, my first real job in my field of study, meeting my boyfriend-turned-husband, my wedding, and meeting her two great-grandchildren. There are times when I look at my in-law grandparents and feel nostalgic, and perhaps a little bitter, that mine is no longer here.
So in remembrance of her, of Mary L. Sieger, and in honor of what would have been her 88th birthday, I just wanted to write something to show that I still think of her, that I still miss her, and that it’s okay to continue to grieve.
Love you, grandma.