I really only ever had one grandparent in my life. My mom's parents had died before I was born and my dad's dad died three months after I arrived in the world. So that left Grandma. Of course I wish I had gotten to know the other three, but Grandma had a personality as big as four grandparents put together.
Before Alzheimer's, before dementia, and before Parkinson's, this lady raced (as in ran with) her grandkids. She never smiled during a game of Gin Rummy. It didn't matter that I was 10 years old--Grandma was a serious competitor in a game of cards and it wasn't pretty when she lost. Thankfully it was endearing to me even then when I knew she was treating me equally by not throwing the game for my benefit. I had my first martini with my grandma.
My brother and I were lucky. We were the only grandkids in town and we went out to dinner every Friday with her to Skyline, followed by Graeter's. I'd vary my ice cream choice, but she faithfully bought a scoop of peppermint stick with hot bittersweet chocolate drizzled on top. With that routine for many many years, I'm banking on a heart attack when my time comes.
She lived with us for six months after she fell and broke her hip. And then another six months when she fell again and shattered her kneecap. She was clearly always mad at herself for those accidents, but had nothing but a sense of humor around us. I remember one day when my brother had crumpled my homework; I was loudly crying into the carpet of the hallway. She came hobbling down with her crutches and ever so calmly asked if I was counting the fibers in the carpet and how many I had found so far.
Then there was the time she babysat us for a week while my parents were away on vacation. She unknowingly cut her toe and bled all over the carpet in the whole house and the goldfish died.
And then the grandma things she'd say: If you asked her how she was doing, she'd say she was "supermalagorgeous."
But above all, my favorite story is the one my dad would tell about how his mom became his mom. He told it like this:
I guess my dad had an accident with his girlfriend because I was born. I was a bastard. She didn't want me so my dad said 'To hell with her' and took me with him. He found another girl, but she didn't like me either. So he said 'To hell with her too.' And then Pop found your grandma. Well she loved me so much that she made me the best man in the wedding, got married on my birthday, and adopted me. The rest is history.
My dad always had his arms crossed, leaning on a table when he told this story and when he'd finish the last line of the story he'd proudly look over his shoulder at my grandma right beside him and she'd scoop a spoonful of food into her mouth and nod like, Yep. That's what happened. She was so humble about it. She took in someone else's kid for god's sake! I always loved that incredibly humanist side to her.
But it's okay. Hopefully she's with a lot of people she's missed for a long time. A palm reader once asked me if I had three deceased grandparents (and I was young then) because I had three guardian angels indicated on my palm. This week I've been looking at those lines, waiting for a fourth to appear.