Mid-August when it was still muggy and hot, hotter than anyway wanted it to be, even for the last weeks before school began, she woke up to a voicemail on her phone. It’d been left in the wee hours of the morning, well before her alarm had gone off, and she didn’t have to listen to it to know what had been said.
She’d done this before. It was in a different state, almost a decade earlier, so many things were different back then…but it was still familiar. The January of 2010 had started off tumultuous. She’d just lost a job she’d hated, in a state she couldn’t stand, all to be closer to her grandmother, and of course moving out of state had an exciting ring to it when she was fresh out of college. She remembered her grandmother had driven her to art lessons, walked her to school, made her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or depending on the year, pickle and Miracle Whip sandwiches. She was the live-in baby sitter that from a little girl’s eyes was always better than daycare or an after-school program. So when she had to move into a nursing facility due to her dementia getting too far along, it seemed only logical that this young woman would want to be close.
The January of 2010 was her third time on hospice, no that’s not a typo, she’d miraculously and obviously unexpectedly, recovered twice before. Even though the family all had their doubts that this third hospice visit was her last, when the young woman’s phone rang early on a Monday morning with no words but sobbing on the other end, she knew what had happened.
Now it was 2019 and certainly a lot hotter outside than it was during that January years before. There was no long standing illness. Barely even a prescription to be taken. No cognitive faculties lost, and those old bones could still work a six hour day on the farm alongside men half her age. There was always fence to be mended, trees to clear out, hay that needed cutting and bailing. Often the housework was neglected because of her love for the outdoors and the sunshine. Over the years her small garden had taken a back seat due to the time and energy it needed that she no longer had. She was almost 90 after all.
Despite her grandmother’s age, the young woman thought there was so much time left as we often do. Not because she was putting off visits, or not making time for things that were important. Her other grandmother had lived to be 97 in much poorer health, and non-existent physical activity, so it stood to reason that this one would still be around for a while.
She’d always been closer to those two grandmothers than most of her friends had with their grandparents. Even though she’d never lived on that family farm, there is an abundance of memories. Summers picking blackberries and hiking in the state park. Fourth of July fireworks and toasting marshmallows in the fall. Sitting on hay bales around a campfire in the snow, and watching football on the floor of a crowded living room. That ugly pink bathtub in the one bathroom farmhouse and the hum of the propane heaters on a cold winter day. Learning how to bait a worm and crying after stepping in a cow pie. Catching grasshoppers and sleeping in the hay loft on an air mattress that never had enough air. Learning that mud dobbers won’t sting you and tics are nothing to be afraid of when tweezers and acetone are around; also, that mole on your hip might look just like a tic in the dim bathroom light!
This grandmother was fierce, strong-willed and stubborn. She was the kind of lady that you thought would always be around. It never occurred to the girl that both grandmothers would miss her wedding. Neither one would ever meet her babies. She turned 34 this month and her grandmother would have been 90 today. Every fall break was spent with weenie roasts, planting mums, wearing sweaters, opening birthday presents. Sometimes it was with her parents in tow, other times she made the trips herself. One of those traditions that looked a little different over the years, but was always there.
Now that beat up old Chevy sits quiet in the stand-alone garage. There are brush piles that didn’t get burned and always work that still needs done. The dust hasn’t settled and it probably won’t for a while.