I really miss my grandparents. I have friends who are just starting to lose their grandparents, and I don’t want to say I’m envious because that conveys something different than I feel, but I suppose it’s close enough. I think of how lucky people are to have grandparents at their college graduations, weddings, and more, and how much it makes me miss mine. My paternal grandfather died before I was born from tuberculosis, and I know very little about him since he’s not remembered fondly, however my step-grandfather, is remembered kindly and is where my namesake comes from after he adopted my Mimi’s children when they got married. My maternal grandfather, Popeye, was a hero. He got his name from us because he loved spinach and was a member of the Navy, so my sister and I just called him Popeye. He was a funny guy, and he loved my grandmother with every fiber of his being. He was a little short-tempered (I guess that’s where I get it from), but he was a gentle man. He loved fishing, Canadian whiskey, and was incredibly proud of his extended family.
I’d like to believe they were star-crossed lovers, since they had known each other for years (his first wife and my Grammie were best of friends and were even in one another’s weddings). Fate brought them together when he moved back to Massachusetts after his wife died to be closer to her family to help raise their children. He ran into my Grammie multiple times and never realized that she had gotten divorced (she told him that everything was wonderful), until one of his friends mentioned it. Less than a year later, he married my Grandmother, bringing three children to her bundle of four, and together they had two more children to round it out to nine kids total. I always remember him laughing, helping out around the house, making pickles with my Mom, and stopping by with donuts at least one morning a week. I also remember him leaning in to share a joke or a life lesson, and I can still smell his cologne. My last memories with my Popeye were the week of my 11th birthday (April vacation) that we spent in Florida with them. I remember fishing, and losing his favorite hat– it was a matching special edition, irreplaceable hat–and I remember telling him that there were alligators in his fishing spot, and he said, “I’ll be a blue elephant if there are gators in there.” Well, on our last night he was most definitely a blue elephant as we watched one swim by the dock. I also remember it raining and him laughing as my little sister and I literally swam in the flooded streets by their house, and I remember him giving me the biggest hug when we left. When he passed away on May 16th in Florida, I didn’t really understand, but I remember his service being a celebration of all he was and everything he meant to all of us. My maternal grandmother, Grammie, moved to Maine after Popeye passed to be back with us. She was a beautiful woman, with a beautiful soul who made me so happy. After my parents divorce, we spent almost every day after school with Grammie at her condo in Hallowell. I remember exploring the books on her shelves– the smell of pages that had been read hundreds of times and were tinged yellow from wear– I remember hours of practicing singing every song on Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch’s CD’s and cooking dinner for when Mom would get there after work.
I remember sitting on her bed sharing stories of my day, and not understanding why that cat didn’t want to be my best friend. I remember watching hours of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and completing crossword puzzle books together. The holidays were a time to decorate and make sure everything what just right. I miss not hearing her voice at the end of my day, or her crying as I sang because she was so proud of me. When she left us a week before my 15th birthday on April 14th, 2003, the world seemed a little darker without her in it. I remember somehow getting through The Wind Beneath My Wings at her service, and all of the people who came reminded me of how much she was loved. My paternal grandmother, Mimi, passed away in August of 2005, it was hard. I had spent so much time with her toward the end. She had ALS and cancer, and watching her deteriorate from the strong and powerful woman I once knew to a frail and fragile woman was the most awful thing I have ever experienced. I watched as she lost her ability to walk, talk, write, eat… It broke me into a million pieces. It’s why I couldn’t go to her funeral. I had said goodbye over and over for months, and she was gone long before her death. I had the closure I needed. I had memories of Mimi singing in church, making homemade pasta with her in the kitchen, climbing the stone walls in her yard like they were mountains, and hours of sitting in the shade of a tree humming her favorite songs to her on our almost daily visits in the end. She was a survivor of breast cancer, having had a mastectomy in her 40’s and an independent woman who never relied on anyone for anything. She enjoyed being able to do things on her own, and in that way we are very much alike. Loss is a strange thing, because you never really get over it. You simply find ways of compartmentalizing it and being able to live with it. There are days when it is incredibly easy, and then there are days where you feel like it just happened all over again. There is no easy or right way to process grief because it’s a unique experience for every person. For me, it’s never letting them fade from my daily thoughts that keeps them alive. I still write letters to my grandparents to update them on what I’m doing, or to share a moment of happiness, or to simply tell them I miss them and wish they were here. The dirt at their gravestones are filled with letters that are filled with immense love. When I volunteer in my community, I think about Popeye’s involvement with Kiwanis and Shriners and I know he is with me. When I sing in the car on my way to work, I think of Mimi and her love of singing. When I do crossword puzzles at the end of my day and sip on tea, I think of Grammie and how much she enjoyed the solitude of the quiet moments. I remember you, always, and that’s how I keep you with me until we meet again. ❤