Yes, it’s true. My Grandma is a stone-cold killer. I learned this 25 years ago, when my brother, Alex, my mom and I were visiting my grandparents at their home in Arizona. My mom found a scorpion in her room, and Alex and I watched wide-eyed as Grandma beat the venomous pest to death with a fly swatter. Didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink an eye.
And, at almost 93, the woman is badass to this day. In my opinion, pretty much all you have to do to be badass at 93 is to be 93. But my grandma does even more than that. Not only does she get around, run errands, and visit family in the area, but every year for the past 6 years or so, she has welcomed our large extended family to her retirement home for a noisy party in celebration of her birthday.
And every year as I get ready to shepherd my own growing family to Arizona for the festivities, I am bombarded with bittersweet memories of parties past.
The first year we celebrated Grandma’s birthday, I showed up at the airport giddy with a secret: I was 13 weeks pregnant with my first baby. Only my mom knew, and she and I spent hours together that weekend going over baby names, analyzing my pregnancy symptoms, and talking about my own babyhood. It was one of the times in our turbulent relationship that I felt closest to my mom. At the end of the birthday dinner that Saturday night, we told Grandma my good news. Three generations shared a hug and happy tears.
|Mom and newborn Matthew, before she got sick|
At the next year’s party, life was both wonderful and awful. My husband and I had a healthy 5-month-old baby. My aunts, uncles, cousins, and Grandma passed Matthew around from lap to lap, giving him as much love as he could take and then some. But when they passed my infant son to my mom, my heart nearly broke. She was two months in to a devastating and failing fight with lung cancer. She laughed and chatted with the group, but she wasn’t quite herself. She wore a wig to cover a head made bald by chemo, and she spent a good deal of time resting. I’ll never forget tiptoeing into the hotel room she shared with Alex to see her and Matthew napping together, their matching bald heads stark against the white hotel bed linens. I didn’t know it then, but I would see her just one more time after that weekend before she died.
Over 20 people from my family made it to Phoenix for my Grandma’s next birthday, but to me, my mom’s absence was even bigger than the crowd of well-wishers who gathered at the party. I was pregnant with my second son, and still not quite able to believe that he would never know his grandma. I sobbed as I hugged my aunts and uncle goodbye at the end of the weekend. My mom had been dead for nine months, but somehow being surrounded by the love of her family made me miss her more than ever.
My grandma has had more birthday celebrations since then, and each year my family and I were there making new Arizona memories. One year, my younger son, William, learned to crawl on my Aunt Nancy’s living room rug. The next year, I watched Matthew’s face light up with joy as he played with my Uncle Rick in his pool, just as Alex and I did in our grandparents’ pool 30 years earlier. All the time, I missed my mom. I wanted her to see my boys as they grew. I wanted to tell her about my blog, squeal with delight with her about Alex’s upcoming wedding, and share with her my newest journey as a stay at home mom. I wanted her.
|Mom and Matthew, 3 months old|
This week, we’re getting ready for our yearly trip to Arizona. Both boys are old enough now to swim with my Uncle Rick, and both are eager to spend time playing with their Uncle Alex. Once again, my Aunt Nancy will fill her pantry with apple juice and cookies for the boys, and ice cream and chardonnay for me. My Aunt Martha is planning pedicures for the aunts and girl cousins, who range in age from 14 to 40. I’ll spend the weekend making lots of joyful new Arizona memories with my mom’s family. But most of all, I’ll spend the weekend missing my mom.
This story was originally posted as my first weekly entry as a contestant on Blogger Idol. To see the judges' comments, read it again here. And be sure to follow me on facebook and Twitter to find out about the next round of Blogger Idol, coming up this Wednesday!