My Mama Addie is gone.
A few years back she started to slowly slip away. The glimmer in her eyes faded gradually. I think she’s been gone for a while now but her body hung on. She was ready to go but I have a feeling she stayed for us, her beloved ones. She knew we needed a little piece of her to cling onto for a little while longer. She lingered here because we weren’t quite ready for her to go. But who is ever ready to say goodbye to someone like her, with her quiet grace and her stubborn beauty.
There’s never a good time to say goodbye. It hurts, no matter how long or short the life. Her’s was a long life, but it still feels too short.
Now, all that’s left here with us are the memories and the love she spread. All my thoughts lately begin with, “I remember…” And that is her gift. She is gone now, but her love is not. Love never dies and it never fails, as long as we continue to pour it out as she poured it into us.
The memories pile up and for that I’m grateful. The grief is hard but those snapshots of the past help the loss and the wallowing feel productive. They make the waiting in this deep dark expanse a little more colorful, especially when it feels so bleak.
I remember a cupboard in her kitchen she left empty for Ryna, Mickey and I. As she worked her culinary magic, we would play inside that tiny spot. Sometimes we would chat, other times the quiet bound us together. Both were good, both were needed. There is holiness in the verbal back and forth just as the quiet is sacred. One working, three playing, no need for the words to muddle the space between.
I remember the summer before my sixth grade year. I had already spent my school clothes budget when I saw the-coolest-shirt-that-ever-was at The Bon Marche. Somehow Mama Addie found out that I desperately wanted, needed, that shirt. You see, grandmas don’t have to stick to school clothes budgets like parents do. They’ve put in their budget years. They’ve earned their spoiling rights and get to do whatever the heck they want with their checkbooks.
Mama Addie asked me to show her this glorious shirt. I made sure to explain how practical it was, with it’s light-weight, versatile fabric. Blue and gray stripes that would match absolutely everything currently hanging in my closet. Also, even though it wasn’t a coat or a sweatshirt, IT HAD A HOOD. I am not even lying, this fashion miracle was real, and I wanted it bad. Ingenious design, super cool, it was everything a sixth grader wanted in an article of clothing. This was THE shirt for me.
After hearing me plead my case, she grabbed that shirt off the rack and marched up to the register. She didn’t mess around, a business transaction needed to be completed and nothing could distract her. Her eyes smiled as she passed that purchased gem into my hands. She always appreciated good fashion. It didn’t matter if she couldn’t understand the younger generation’s style, she took my word for it. Shopping isn’t for the weak-hearted. And neither is grandmothering tweenage girls. She rocked both; she was a brave woman.
She may or may not have bought me that shirt so I would finally shut up about it. Most likely though, she purchased that gift because she knew I loved it and she loved me. That was her kind of logic. Love logic.
Please note: I wore that shirt the first day of sixth grade and for picture day. I put it into the weekly rotation as many times as I my mother would let me. Also, my friends and teachers may have been worried that I only had one shirt that school year. Even though that striped beauty was a frequent flyer, I never, ever, wore it out to play. As soon as I got home from school, I changed into a lesser play shirt because there was no way I was ruining it. That shirt was valuable, priceless actually, my Mama Addie bought it for me.
I remember her always being classy, always put together. Perfect make-up, perfect curls, perfect outfit. All of that on the outside though, was just a reflection of the beauty on the inside. Her true beauty shone out through her eyes. Bright blue and sparkly with the skin wrinkling around them, evidence of her creaking, contagious giggle. The outfits, the make-up, the hair, all these were just accessories to the real Mama Addie. She was an in-the-background kind of lady. A get-things-done-without-complaining person. A you-need-something?-here-you-go woman. She had big ideas and beliefs, but she would only share those within the small circle. She was like the coffee she used to drink, strong, fragrant and bold.
She loved to fill bellies and give gifts. Her love came in fresh baked bread and strawberry freezer jam. Her love was spread through homemade fateman and krumkake. I learned to count through Skip-Bo games at her table. Later her handwritten numbers on shipyard ledgers taught me the ins and outs of budgeting and bookkeeping. We spent hours playing Hand and Foot and other card games her friends had taught her. Her table was always open to us. Whether it was filled with food, cards or conversation, she never turned us away.
I remember she used to rock me to sleep on her voluptuous “pillows” in that creaky old glider. I drifted off to sleep in the comfort of her lap and to the sound of the waves crashing outside onto the beach. Later on, when I was older, I still occasionally stayed over at her house. I was a little too old and too big to be rocked to sleep so she tucked me in after a story and crept back downstairs to clean up and retire to her bedroom. One of those nights, I woke up scared in the black of night, so I tip-toed downstairs into her bedroom to tell her. Part of me still knew that, although her lap had shrunk and I didn’t fit on it anymore, I still needed the comfort she always provided. I had grown, but I still needed her. I slowly opened her bedroom door, but the excruciatingly loud snores coming from her side of the bed frightened me even more so I scampered out quickly and ran back into bed without waking her.
She would hate that I called her out on the snoring. She wouldn’t have said anything verbally, instead, she would have spoke with her eyes. Her brow furrowed, her chin set. That stubborn scowl spoke volumes. It would let me know that I was in trouble now. Then a few seconds would go by, the shiny eyes would return, the corners of her lips would curl back up and all would be forgiven.
Even though she was quiet lady, she was bold. One time she went shopping and bought a really fancy dress. Next, she proceeded to tell my cousin that she bought it to wear to his wedding. Granted, he hadn’t even proposed yet, but she was antsy for things to move along. She wasn’t always direct, but you got her message anyway.
It was the same way with her love. It wasn’t always spelled out but you got the message anyway.
In her lifetime she didn’t receive world-renown attention. Her name won’t be written in any history books. She would have hated that spotlight anyway. Instead, she quietly, stubbornly, and sometimes sternly, loved her family and friends. She loved her husband, raised her two boys, welcomed their two wives and spoiled her three granddaughters. She loved Tim from the start and got to have flashbacks of her own early mothering years while watching our two boys toddle and wrestle around. She loved us all fiercely and for that she will always be in the spotlight of our hearts. Her name, forever recorded in our own personal history books. She left her mark on us, that is her legacy.
Her brave love was not for the faint of heart.
She was spunky and quirky and classy in the best way. I like to humor myself in thinking she passed some of that down to me. When I grow up, I want to be like her. Humbly giving, selflessly serving and relishing in the joy that is found in family and friends.
Good thing she taught me to love by her strong example. Good thing she still gives her gifts and teaches me lessons in the form of memories. Good thing she passed down her stubborn heart, or else I would crumble underneath the weight of her loss.
There is no conclusion to her life because we are still here. Her love is still here. Her spunk and stubbornness live on. I just wish she was still sitting at the table with us, dealing out those cards or piling food onto our plates.