It’s been eight years since my grandmother passed away. Eight years and some days it feels like just yesterday. Some days the gaping, aching hole of grief opens up and swallows me whole.
It is not in any way exaggeration to say that my grandmother is the reason I’m still here today. I’ve made no secret of the fact that growing up was extremely difficult for me. I was the black sheep of my family. I was smart and extremely into books. I was shy and quiet and klutzy. I had absolutely no fashion sense. That made me a target. My siblings tormented me relentlessly because of those traits. I remember one day I made the mistake of wearing suspenders (this was back in the early ’90’s when the tv show Family Matters was popular) and for years after I was teased about being Steve Urkel’s girlfriend. Who’s laughing now, huh?
But then there was my grandmother who always respected me. When I was an adult, Gram admitted to me that she saw what was happening and she tried to mitigate it as much as she could. She’d let me spend the night at her house, she’d slip me small treats when nobody else was looking, she’d listen to me and speak to me like I was an actual person.
When I was still just a pre-teen, she gave me a cockatiel named Pretty Girl. I can’t even describe how good it made me feel to have her trust me enough to take care of this beautiful bird. Especially after the many times I’d been told the story about how, when I was three, I killed one of Gram’s birds by plucking all of its feathers out. I swore that I would make up for that by being the best caretaker of Pretty Girl that I could be. And I was for several years until the pressures of school got to be too much and Pretty Girl went back to Gram’s.
I have very few regrets in life, but the biggest one is not seeing her enough in the months before she died. I let life get in the way and keep me from her and that will haunt me to my own grave.
My grandmother was my savior. She really was. She gave me the strength to grit my teeth and bear it when things got tough and I know that wherever she is, she’s still cheering me on in everything I do.
Gram has been gone for many years now, but she has never left my side.