The Last Time I Saw My Grandma or The Last Great Watermelon Incident
I was 13 or 14 and just barely out of the house. I was visiting my grandparents on my Dad’s side. I was taking my niece, who was my brothers’ baby, to meet them for the first time.
I was on the floor in the front room with her while my Dad and his wife sat looking on in the company of my Grandma and Grandpa.
That floor was lovely; I grew up on it sometimes. And those laps, the laps of my Grandma and Grandpa, I grew up on them too. I would sit on my Grandmas lap and play a game we invented called Scratch! Rub! Tickle! I would shout out a command and she would do whichever one on my back, I would try to change it up fast so she would do the wrong one. The real point of the game was one of my only experiences of safe and pleasant touching as a kid.
I would sit on my Grandpas lap and we would joke about the three hairs he had left on his head or we would sing together. We sang the Loggers Love Song and Oh Lord It’s Hard to be Humble.
That was a home I had always been safe in. I loved it there more than anywhere.
As a child I had an evil stepmother (different from the wife who was there that day), for real, just like any other fairy tale. She took pride and pleasure in taking away anything that I found comforting. For the most part my Dad was as scared of her as I was and didn’t do very much to protect me. It was just like the other fairy tales in that way too. But there was a time when she tried to forbid me from going to his parents’ house and he stood up. My visits continued.
I would sleep over. I would wake up and read Dennis the Menace until it was late enough that I could go crawl into their bed and bother them. I never willfully crawled into any other bed.
I didn’t know that that would be the last time I would see my Grandmother, that day with my niece. I didn’t know a broken heart would cause an attack of pride that would last six years until her passing.
I had pink hair and a few holes in my face that hadn’t always been there. I was a middle school drop (rise) out. My only plan was to be awesome and maybe learn to levitate by the time I was 17.
My Grandparents were higher ups in the Mormon Church. My Grandpa had broken the ground for the temple in their town. My Grandma was the head of everything a woman could be head of. They had ideas about how a young lady should act and behave.
My Grandpa was quiet and since World War II had diligently avoided conflict unless it was concerning the well being of his family. My Grandma on the other hand was feisty when it came to her opinions about what others aught to be doing. I had not been on the receiving end of that very much in my childhood.
That day, as I played with my niece on the floor, I heard my Dad’s wife and my Grandma talking about my stepsister.
“She made it on the cheerleading squad,” said the wife proudly.
My Grandma responded in a very big way, sharing in the pride and excitement.
I was jealous and I hated cheerleaders. I had also inherited my Grandmothers strong will and loudspeaker.
I said in a bitter tone, “Like that will take her very far.”
In a flash was my Grandmothers rebuttal. She had never said anything bad about who I was or might be until that moment. “Well it’s a darn sight farther than you’ll ever go!”
My heart broke, my walls rose. Tears ran as fast as they could to my eyes but I stopped them before they fell. I didn’t even think. I picked up my niece and I went to the car. I told myself she shouldn’t be around people talking bad about the ones she loved like that. It would be confusing. It would be bad for her.
I stayed with her in that car for a very long time, until my stubbornness prevailed and we were driven home.
In the mean time I made up games to entertain her. I withstood my Dad trying to get me to come inside. He even went on a walk to cool himself down. I had never seen him do that.
My Grandpa came to the picture window at one point and held a watermelon above his head. He shook it and smiled.
Watermelon was and is my favorite food. They always had one waiting for me. Since I was tiny they would cut one in half and set me down with the whole half and a spoon.
He was trying to lure me inside. He was trying to make peace. He had seen enough tragedy without anyone making it in his home.
I turned away.
I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know how to bend. I was learning to set boundaries and I was doing it with land mines.
Years went by. I would send Christmas gifts to my Grandma through my Dad and she would send me some back. I never spoke with her again. I never went to see her. My grandpa died only two years after the last time I saw them and I went to see him in the hospital.
He was dying of leukemia. It was a rare moment when my Grandmother had left his side. I didn’t plan it that way. I thought I would see her but that’s not how it worked out. The last thing he said to me was, “I know I can’t tell you to be good so at least have fun.”
A short while later, with all his sons by his side he said his last words. He had been unconscious all day and my Dad and his brothers were talking together about girls they had dated as teenagers. Someone brought up a girl that everyone had always described as homely but nice. My Grandpa suddenly came to and said, “Ugly is what you’re born with, Nasty is something you cultivate.” Then he slipped back into another world and soon passed.
A few years later I was in Mississippi, headed East, I was pretty good and drunk. I realized suddenly that it was my last opportunity to go home and see my Grandma. Somehow I just knew. If I didn’t turn around I would never see her again.
I didn’t turn around.
I kept on going to Florida, to my traveling companions long lost family. I was really good about reuniting other peoples’ families. For real, I have a lot of stories about that.
When I got back to Mississippi a few weeks later, headed West, I found out that she was gone.
There it was and there it went.
I miss those two very much. I am very lucky that my only examples of safe loving adults were people who were so different from me in so many exterior ways. It makes it easy to recognize other peoples’ bests.
I remember the songs my Grandpa sang, I act on every bit of love they left me and it is growing all of the time.
There are a lot of ways they aren’t gone.
Then one great big glaring way that they are.
Posted on May 30, 2013, in adolescence, family, grandparents, heart ache, inheritance, love, psychic phenmena, psychic phenomena, travel, true stories and tagged grandparents, grief, mistakes, resentment, watermelons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.