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Closer to You

May 11, 2014

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(Image is one of my Grammy holding and gazing adoringly at her newborn first great grandchild- you know him as Troy)

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.
~Traditional Irish Saying

(For context, please read the old post this came from by clicking here. Thanks.)

It’s been a little more than two years. But she is still here. Some days, like today, it feels like she is even nearer than when she was living. Days like today the memories of all the little things she did come flooding in, like the way she would stand in the doorway of her apartment waving enthusiastically at us as we ran down the hall, and watching us as we waited for the elevator, or the cans of soda and full-sized candy bars she would keep in her fridge to offer us when we came (and how I think she probably did it just to drive my mom crazy!) the way she would do a little wiggle dance before an excited hug, or the little sayings she had, “Gotta get my bearings here,” when parking a car, or “it’s just a material thing. Material things you can replace, it’s people that matter….” Funny how that works….

My husband lost his wedding band this morning. To say that he was distraught would be an understatement. He’s been on a trip in France all week. He’s been itching to get home to us. He’s actually even been complaining about the food- he feels like he’s gaining weight on all the pastries! (yeah, not feeling too badly for him on that one… 😉 ). So this morning he decided to go for a run. He put his ring in his pocket, thinking it was somehow safer there. During his run, he continuously stopped to take pictures of European cars for Troy. At some point, while taking his phone out of his pocket, the ring must have fallen out. It’s gone. He looked for it all day. He heads home in the morning. As he was telling me about his awful day, I suddenly heard my grandmother’s voice echoing in the simple words I spoke- “It’s just a material thing. Just a material thing…” When I hung up the phone I smiled a little at how near she felt to me right then.

As I walked over to the dresser (the one that used to be hers) something drew my hand to my top drawer. Suddenly I remembered, the week that she had died. I remembered sitting with my sisters pouring over all of her old jewelry- much of it costume jewelry. I remember laughing about the giant clip on earrings she loved so much. I remember one sister being insistent that she get the engagement ring, the other wanting my grandmother’s wedding band. My husband later seemed confused as to why I didn’t ask for either. The truth was, I felt enormously guilty that I hadn’t been able to be there with her as much as I would have liked during the last years of her life. My focus had shifted, as she would undoubtedly say was appropriate, to her three great-grandchildren. We lived 600 miles away, and phone conversations are difficult for me under the best of circumstances, but it became a general impossibility with her quiet slurred speech competing against the constant banter of my babes. I visited her every chance I had, but still I felt like we had been distanced. And I remember looking at the jewels that my sisters were claiming and thinking this was how it should be. There should be no bickering back and forth right now. That’s not what Grammy would have wanted.  I took the ones that no one seemed interested in, the costume jewelry for Joyce, a few old rings and necklaces that I had bought for her over the years, the watch she bought while we were in Ireland together, but nothing that I thought my sisters might be interested in.  Then a tiny white box of very plain wedding bands emerged from the pile, and my sisters didn’t want them. One was broken- cut, in fact. The other had a simple spacer on it. They had belonged to my grandmother’s parents. My great-grandmother died when I was 7, a year before my youngest sister was born and probably to early for my middle sister to really remember her.

I quietly took the rings, relishing the quiet memory of my great grandmother’s quick wheezy laugh, and the gentle Irish brogue with which she spoke. I remember she wore hearing aids and her phone was turned up incredibly loud and being really entertained by that- the whistling of the aids and the super loud phone. I remember thinking she was just so fascinating. I remember loving her and laughing with her. I remember when she went into a nursing home, Grammy would play with me out in the hall so that my parents could visit with Grandma (what I called my great grandmother, because that’s what Dad called her). I remember Grammy letting me race down the halls of the nursing home in an unoccupied wheelchair. And I remember the day I came home from school and I stood in the kitchen while my mother told me that Grandma had died.

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(Image is my great-grandmother (aka Grandma) holding a newborn me)

Material things…. Sometimes they are not just material things, Grammy…. Standing by my dresser, I suddenly had an image of the simple white cardboard box. I opened the drawer, and, there, carefully placed inside of another box, I found it. Inside were three rings. The two bands belonging to my great grandparents, and a third. One that no one could identify at the time, but looked to be a man’s wedding band. I scooped them up and took them to the jeweler. The band once broken is being mended, it’s mate, is being resized to fit the great-granddaughter’s finger. The third band, is perfect, as it turned out. I think it may have belonged to my Grampa, Grammy’s husband. It is rose-gold, hand engraved, and apparently very rare. My husband comes home tomorrow, and we will again have matching bands. And the third band, it currently sits on my index finger, as a reminder of the love that flows between here and eternity.

As my children and I were strolling through a mall on our way to one of our favorite restaurants this afternoon, the scent of fading tobacco drifted through the air. There is a tobacco shop across the hall from the restaurant, but this scent felt different. It was distinctly the scent of my grandmother’s apartment. I smiled as I breathed in the scent, soaking in the memory, knowing that she was near. And I know she’s been with me even more now than before…

Certainly she was with me today, guiding me, finding the rings, comforting me with memories. Memories of her, and even memories of how much she loved my husband. I used to feel the need to jokingly remind her that “he is a little young for you, Grammy…” They would pal around in their matching black leather jackets together. He would easily offer her his mechanic’s jacket on a chilly evening and she would happily accept. She would thank him for culturing me when she found out the first gift he ever gave me was a Frank Sinatra CD. So I know she will be smiling on us when I give him her father’s wedding band tomorrow. Because maybe it’s not just a material thing after all.

I am ordering a replacement ring from the same shop in Dublin that crafted the first pair, because those are ours. But it’s nice to know that until it arrives, we will still have a perfect pair, and who knows, maybe we’ll keep wearing both, although Joyce is already eyeing those simple bands, in love with the legacy of them.

So maybe it’s not the Mother’s Day gift I had expected. But I can’t think of anything nicer than being able to spend this weekend, in some way, with my Grammy and Grandma.

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(Image is an old one of my two grandmothers- Grammy ( my Dad’s mom, on left) and “Mum” (my mother’s mother- hey that’s what she called her, so that’s what I called her..) I was so blessed to have had all four of my grandparents and one great grandmother when I was first born, and although Mum is not a part of this story, she still holds a very special place in my memories and in my heart.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanie permalink
    May 28, 2014 9:44 pm

    Great pix of Grammy and Mum

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