Monday, November 03, 2008
Not until the past week have I lived a day without her.
Nana was the last living grandparent of mine. I guess making it 36 years with at least one grandparent is something I should be thankful for.
But I miss her.
Dang, this is hard. My eyeballs are already leaking as I look at this photo taken in July. It was the last moment I saw her alive.
Nana and Pop Pop were my favorite two people on the planet. As a little kid, my bias was based on their stuffing me full of forbidden foods such as chocolate, Coke and sugary sweets. My poor parents were guaranteed a wild child after a visit to Nana's house.
Would you believe Nana had over 80 pairs of shoes - each pair with a matching purse?
The walk-in closet in her tiny Cape Cod, provided the perfect hiding place for two little girls hell-bent on scaring her half to death. Racks of pumps and purses obscured us from sight. We knew she'd come home from work at Bergman's shoe department (surprised?) at 5:30PM on the dot. Pop Pop pretended we weren't there. Tammie and I hunkered down in wait. In her closet. Every time.
Every time, Nana pretended we scared her. She'd put her hands over her chest and breath like she ran a marathon. We'd clambor out of the closet into her arms.
"You've got 'Nana-nerves'." My sister and I would tell Mom or vice versa. Nana was a worry-wort. She rarely traveled outside the state of Pennsylvania, and when she did, it was no more than 100 miles into NY or NJ.
She feared for our lives when Tammie and I rode our bikes around our rural neighborhood. Some men in a brown van could come along and kidnap us.
Walking around barefoot sent her into a tizzy (shoe obsession?) - a)not wearing shoes causes your feet to spread, b)walking barefoot on pavement or concrete will give you arthritis, c)you'll catch your death.
When Kyle was starting to walk, she sent money to me so he could have "proper shoes". To Kyle's physical therapist, "proper shoes" were those super-flexible leather things. To Nana, "proper shoes" were orthopedic clunkers that covered half a baby's leg! "His feet will grow crooked," she said huffing and grunting in disapproval.
Tammie loved to lay on her back and watch TV upside down. "You'll go blind. Sit up," Nana'd say on many occasions. If one of us was too close to the TV (usually me, I am legally blind w/o contacts), Nana had a fit about radiation exposure. "You'll die from radiation. Cancer, you know."
Oh, and ink posioning. If my sister or I wrote on our skin, Nana freaked. "Ink poisoning! The ink'll absorb in your bloodstream and you'll die!" I guess she was such an inkaphobe, my mom bought into it.
When I was about fourish, I decided to break the world tatoo record and cover my little sister in ink. "That's Incredible" would be impressed. We'd be on TV. Maybe we'd move into a house with stairs or a two-car garage!
During a long phone call with a friend, I went to work. Mom was tethered to the wall. Tammie ended up covered in blue ink. Mom saw her, screamed and scrubbed my poor sister until she was raw. Nana-nerves.
Other things Nana thought would "be the death" of us: kissing the dog or cat (deadly germs), walking in the woods (alien abduction), going outside with wet hair (pnemonia), not wearing hat/scarf/gloves (flu), not eating beets (if you don't eat them, you'll get sick) and flip-flops (deforemed foot maker # 65).
Nana was a master at being "fair". If she made cookies that were not perfectly consistent in size, she'd cut them up into pieces so Tammie and I had an equal number of pieces. I threw the "not fair" fits. She'd count out M&Ms, trying to make sure the colors were distributed evenly.
She'd fret at Pop Pop for letting his hound dog in the house while she was at work.
She always brought a gift for the non-birthday child on birthdays (again, I was the problem).
When I was a teenager, Nana's apartment was my refuge from a world where I didn't belong. I'd cry about all the mean things kids said to me- names they called me. She filled me up with ice cream and Sprite. Nana almost always took my side in arguments. During my turbulent teen years, she was the only person who thought I was exceptionally gited (okay, Mom and Dad said so, but who believes their parents as a teen?) She even took the sting out of teasing words from sisterly spats.
THE NATIONAL ENQUIRERE was her favorite "newspaper". While I was at Houghton, I'd get envelopes with articles she thought I must see. "Hiker abducted by aliens while on camping trip." "Hiker dies from industrial pollution in creek". Stuff like that along with zuchini bread. Nana's zuchini bread was the best. I still can't replicate it even though Mom swears I have the right recipe. Nana's bread was very dark brown, not golden. Hmmmm.
Kyle was her "baby doll". Despite her mental illness as she aged, she pulled out of her delusional world for Kyle. Had to know how the baby was, what he was up to at any moment. She'd worry about him endlessly while he was in PA.
This past July, he was sometimes the only person she recognized. For the first two weeks of our visit, Kyle insisted on going down stairs to get a Nanny sandwhich kiss. She'd blink awake from a fitful sleep in her chair, light up, kiss him and snore.
After she went to the hospital, Kyle wanted Nanny kisses more than ever. He didn't understand what happened or where she went. Those next two weeks, he prayed his "Dear Jesus's" asking Jesus to give Nana a "Jesus Kiss."
The day before Kyle and I flew home, Mom and I took Kyle to see her at the nursing home. She didn't know who Mom was, but she sure knew who Kyle was in that moment. His little eyes crinkled, he let out a squeal and threw his arms around her neck. I feared he'd be scared of her. She was in a wheel chair and was paper pale. Ghostly. Her marble-like blue eyes softened, and she kissed his cheeks over and over again before surrendering to the sedatives once again.
Climbing into the car, I knew I'd never see her again this side of heaven. I'm so thankful the last words I said to her were, "Nana, I love you so much. I'm going to miss you. - Oh crap, I'm crying again - bye." I kissed her several times and hugged her tight.
Jesus came and got her on October 26, at 4:15 in the morning, Eastern time. It happened very quick and in a way, unexpected. Mom called me as I got ready for church. We cried together on the phone. Not being able to make her funeral last Wednesday was excruciating for me. But there was no way to make it work.
Mom said Nana looked more beautiful than ever in at least ten years. "Pretty, she was just so... pretty and peaceful looking." Mom said at that moment, God washed her aching heart with a peace only He can give.
Kyle won't be able to get anymore Nanny sandwiches, but he can know with assurance, Nana is getting the real deal when it comes to Jesus kisses.