When we drove through the gates of the cemetery yesterday, little Mack said, “we’re going here? Oh yeah! We come here every time we come to Nana’s house!”
I smiled and sighed. He was right, after all. We were at the cemetery two short weeks ago for his Uncle Dana’s birthday.
We bought a ton of flowers and brought them to Dana’s grave, only to find flowers already there from his younger son.
Grandma, all of Dana’s kids drove the 6+ hours south to be at his gravesite for what would have been his 45th birthday. I hope you and Dana and Grandpa Jack were embracing them in love as they knelt at your graves, Dana right above you and Grandpa.
I don’t know, you know. I thought a part of my heart was breaking in remembering how it was last year – do you remember, Grandma? You were with me as Dana, always so happy and joyful on his birthday, gave us all red roses.
Remember how he loved giving us flowers on his birthday? And I remember trying to tease him about his age and having it fall flat since he was completely ecstatic to be one year older. He was SO HAPPY.
Dana was nothing if not a joyful person who just relished his life, soaked up every bit of it and asked for seconds, thirds.
I miss him so much, Grandma.
We covered his grave and yours and Grandpa Jacks – all three of you who left us last year – in flowers. And tears.
Mom’s courage is contagious. I look at her and I think, ‘she lost her only son and both parents. She’s moving forward, step by step.’ I take a deep breath. I know you are so proud of her.
Yesterday we were back at the cemetery.
It was the one year anniversary of your passing.
Grandma, you were such an incredibly special lady.
You know how I went through the windshield of a car when I was 4 years old. It left me with scars all over my face from my torn forehead, lip and eyebrow. I went from this cute freckle-faced strawberry-blonde little girl to this a little girl with blood red scars all over my face and shorn hair.
I have written about this before, in the first post I ever wrote on this blog about my brother Dana. How the world would see my face and look away, embarrassed, horrified, and yet with my brother nothing changed. He demanded that I play with him, as I always had, as I always would, until he died last September.
You were the other person that didn’t blip with my scars or with the change in my appearance.
To you, I was always a perfect little girl. I don’t know how you did it. I mean, I was very sensitive then to how people would shift in their treatment of me once they saw my face, and I could pick up on that shift like there was no tomorrow. From you, there was never a shift, never a blip. I was precious to you, perfect. I was gorgeous, smart, and later, you were thrilled that I would choose to “fight for the underdog” and yes, that I “could drive too!”
You are my Grandma and you always loved me.
I loved being with you, I loved your acceptance of me. I loved how I could be myself with you. I would take you to dance with me at Ashkanez in Berkeley. I even brought you with me to bars, remember Albatross, Hotsy Totsy and Mallard?! Oh, we had so much fun, didn’t we, Grandma!
And always, always, you and I went to movies.
First we’d walk when I was little, then you’d drive me. Years later, I would pick you up and drive you! You’d tell me stories about your visits to those theaters in days gone by, like when we went to the Fox in Oakland to see a classic. You told me stories of your parents, your life, stories about your daughter, my mom. You loved talking and laughing and having a good time. Oh, how I loved your laugh, Grandma!
Remember how we’d sit together in the car after we had watched a movie and dissect it, scene by scene, what was good about it, what we rated the movie. We both loved foreign movies (they came with captions!); independents were best. I often thought that we missed our calling; we should have run a movie review system or something.
Yesterday we went to the cemetery first to visit you and lay flowers on your grave, as well as Dana’s and Grandpa Jack’s.
It was far less sad than going there for Dana’s birthday had been.
Grandma, you had had such a wonderful passing – holding Dana’s hand on one side and my own on the other, mom standing by your feet, your great-grandchildren in the room, surrounded by love.
Ready to go, exactly one month to the day after Grandpa Jack passed on.
I have found it so easy to feel your presence this past year. Easy, I think because you were ready to go and because our love is so strongly in my being – if I simply close my eyes and dance, it’s easy to feel you.
At your grave yesterday, I played “Your The Love” – that song that we’d listen to and seat-dance along with, and cried.
Mom and I were together.
We went on to the movies, to see La La Land, in honor of you.
We didn’t know what it was about!
I just knew it was something about a musical and done in an old-Hollywood vibe. We were completely blown away. I was sobbing, as it reminded me so much of you and Grandpa Jack.
Moxie was swept away with the piano playing and dancing. She sat, enthralled,
eyes wide and glued to the screen.
It made me think of how alike in many ways Moxie is to you, and how you were when I first told you that the child I was pregnant with would be coming with Down syndrome.
Do you remember that, Grandma? You didn’t miss a beat, saying, “oh but she’ll be your baby and you’ll love her.”
Just like you never, ever missed a beat with me.
I am so blessed. I had 43 years with a Grandma who thought the world of me, so much time to be surrounded by your love, affection, stories, joy, pride, humor, laughter, generosity, humility and kindness.
I will always be grateful.
And, feeling you as I do, knowing that you are are my Angel, watching over me with so much love, I am still grateful.
I love you, Grandma.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.