eighteen months without Grandma

Snow Day! Those words are enough to send a thrill right through me. Growing up in the central valley of northern California, I don’t think I even knew the concept. When my husband and I moved to eastern Washington state to attend graduate school, we discovered the joys of the Snow Day for the first time. Now that we live in New England, we still find these brief respites a wondrous thing. Of course, working for a university has this benefit — we get snow days just like the kids do!

So yesterday was a Snow Day. And here’s what we did. My son played in the snow with the neighbor kids, whom he rarely sees since he attends a private school in another town. I took a long time to enjoy my morning cup of tea, the dog keeping me company. Then my son came in, soaked to the bone but with glowing cheeks. I made us both a cup of hot cocoa (diet cocoa is 0 pts on Weight Watchers, so I added a little regular cocoa to mine to make it taste better and called it 1 pt.) Then we made gingerbread cutout cookies (1/8 of a package is about 5 pts., so with the shape and number of cookies we ended up making, that meant one cookie = 1 pt. I figured that wasn’t going to put me over the edge, so we went ahead and baked!)

In between batches, we snuggled on the couch with a soft blanket and a warm dog, reading Arthur’s Christmas (I think that’s the title). We listened to various Christmas CDs (Elvis Presley, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Jingle Bell Jazz) and finished the cookies and then had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Eventually the kid went off to his room to read, and I got busy with other things. My husband, bless him, shovelled the driveway and went and got the snow tires put on the car. Last night Dad and Son went to an evening activity while I stayed home and put up more Christmas decorations, blogged, and just plain enjoyed the time alone.

A fine Snow Day.

But while I was sitting on the couch last night in an empty house, feeling happy and content, I turned my head halfway to the telephone on the side table. I should call Grandma and tell her about our day! Then it hit me. You idiot, she’s dead, remember? A wave of sadness.

Yesterday was the eighteen-month anniversary of Grandma’s death. This is a staggering fact to me. In true cliche fashion, it feels both like her death was just yesterday and that it was forever ago. I am struck once again by how intense and painful these moments of yearning for the lost loved one can be. How on earth, after a year and a half, I can continue to expect to pick up the phone and call her defies explanation. I mean, I know this sort of thing happens with grief, but when it happens, it’s still such a shock.

I used to love hearing Grandma’s winter stories. For her, as a Minnesota native, snow was a bother. Though she moved to California with her family during the Great Depression to escape starvation in Dust Bowl Montana, she stayed in California all of those years with good reason. Her stories of the frigid winters of northern Minnesota, frozen toes and fingers on the way to the Busy Bee school, frozen laundry hanging on the line, frozen washbasins in the girls’ “dormitory” upstairs (she was one of seven girls, plus four boys) — these stories, told to me as a California girl, made me desperately wish for snow. Alas, we had to drive to Lake Tahoe to see the stuff, barring the one miraculous day a light dusting fell on Sacramento.

Anyway, I fully appreciate the white stuff. I know it’s more fashionable to grump about the weather, at least here in New England. But even when it’s me out driving in it or shovelling it, I still can’t help but see snow as a miracle. Those light puffy flakes just floating out of nowhere, covering all the mess of the earth, the dirt and dead leaves and fallen branches, with a pure whiteness.

Grandma’s gone. But we still have Snow Days. The miracles keep happening. We must live in love and do the best we can. May all your Snow Days be miracles.

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6 Responses

  1. The beginning part of this post sounds like a truly wonderful time. What a great snow day.

    I can relate to the second part. As you know, my grandma died in October. My other Grandmother, my mom’s mom, died only a few years ago as well. Our Christmas tree is filled with decorations made by this Grandma. She died was too suddenly (of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the young age of 79. They just this past week put a nice memorial to her in the front of her church.

    You are correct. Every time something nice happens I want to tell them about it.

    Beautiful post.

  2. Well, yes, I guess it’s just natural. Love lingers.

    Thanks for stopping by. Hope your daughter is feeling better!

  3. I’ve just come back from traveling to the Middle East and England, and it was cold even there in Egypt, Africa! In England I had 4-5 layers of clothing. But nothing prepared me for minus 15C temp as I stepped out the airport here in Calgary. The stingy, crisp, cold air tells me right away: I’m home…and there’s going to be months of Snow Days ahead.

  4. Ah, yes, Calgary. That’s cold! But I know what you mean about it being “home” when you feel that cold air. The autumn and winter are what appeal to me about New England, what makes it feel like a place I want to call home. It’s the much-delayed spring with its intensity of allergens and the muggy summers that make me wish I lived back in the dry west!

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. Like the Grandma in your story, I will someday not be here for my daughter to call. It’ so nice that you have the memories and the desire to share them with her. Loved your post.

  6. Thanks, Nana Connie! Yes, Grandma was a tremendously fun and supportive conversationalist. She is missed.

    Nice that you and your daughter are close, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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