Grandma. Flashbacks.
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Oct 2012)

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       In my little feety pajamas, I would pull her hand, looking up at her and saying, “Grandma, Grandma, can I read you a story?” I guess I didn’t understand that it was supposed to work the other way around, but she didn’t seem to mind.

      I visited her in St. Louis when I was five, and the entire place was decorated with what seemed like hundreds of the same picture of a little girl in a dress standing next to a flower. My mouth fell open as I looked around at the work of my own hands, the drawings and paintings that I had asked my mother to mail to Grandma. Well, she mailed them. And my Grandmother not only kept them, but hung them up. I felt very special. Treasured, really.

      Her laughter was melodious, and I heard it every time she told the story of how she once asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “A queen.” I think she liked that I skipped “princess” and went straight for the top.

      She flew in from Missouri during my senior year of high school for my induction to the National Honor Society. Seeing her was a total shock, and I still don’t know how my mother got her into town without me knowing. I, of course, burst into tears at the sight of her and my mother emerging from backstage with the same proud expression, and the same smile. In my grandmother’s arms: a bouquet of flowers in my high school colors. Students and teachers later told me I had made them cry. I also learned that my grandmother had been inducted into NHS back in the day. Cool.

      When I opened my acceptance letter to my first choice university on my 17th birthday, she was there. Then she laughed and shook her head when I called my mother and pretended for a good 30 seconds that I’d been deferred before telling her I got in. I am a horrible daughter. But it was really funny.

      One of the few photos I brought to college was one I’d framed of my grandmother, my mother and myself. A friend looked at it, then looked at me and said, “Clearly, that smile is a dominant trait in your family.”

      I saw an old photo of her and my grandfather at the beach some time in the ‘40s. Double take. I had no idea my grandparents were hotties.

      I think of what she lived through growing up in pre-civil rights America. Then I think of how she lived long enough to see her first two children, and her first two grandchildren, go to college, and how proud she was of all of us.

      She passed away during my freshman year after fighting the evil of a spreading cancer. I thank God that, the night before, I heard the urgent message from my mother in time to call, and I got to hear my grandmother’s voice, and she got to hear mine. She could not speak clearly anymore, but I heard her try. With tears streaming down my face, from the payphone in the lobby of my college house, I said what I knew would be my last goodbye to her.

      In the casket I saw a strange, stretched version of my grandmother’s face. “There’s no reason to look,” I thought. “She’s not in there anymore.” She was no longer in that body. But there was life in the flowers that surrounded us. Many were pink. I chose to focus on those, on life, on the pink flowers. She would have liked them. I smiled. She wore lipstick that color.

      A friend posted an online status about her sadness at her grandmother’s long ago passing, and how she could use her love at that moment. This was my reply.

      Lost mine a while back, but if there's anything I know, it's that she loved me like the light shines
      from the sun. I'm sure the same goes for yours, so if you think of how light travels, consider her
      love back then shining through to you today so you can still see it and feel its warmth.

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