I made this video for my grandma's memorial service. I loved my grandma. And she loved me.
When I was four we moved a block and a half away from my grandma and grandpa on the south side of Chicago. They lived on Wallace and we lived on Parnell — 115th and Halsted was the closest major intersection. I went to the same kindergarten as my mom and she and I would walk there. I did not like the teacher (too grouchy) but she did teach me to color in the faces of animals just like their bodies, which made my giraffe look much better. And for that I was thankful.
For first grade I started going to Morgan Park Academy. My dad would drive me there and I would take one of those small school buses home in the afternoon. A few days a week it would drop me at my grandma’s house because my mom was at the University of Illinois studying psychology.
My grandma would make me a grilled cheese sandwich almost every day because that was pretty much all I’d eat. She also made about half of my clothes (I got to choose the fabric) and once she stuck up for me with such passion when a neighborhood girl wasn’t nice that I thought, wow, my Grandma’s a hero. Sometimes I’d sit next to her when she played the piano. I’d watch her profile and her hands and think that she’s the most talented person I know even though she complains about needing more practice. I never heard her make a single mistake.
During my parents' divorce my mom and I lived with my grandparents in the house they moved into after my grandpa retired. It was in a far south suburb called Park Forest — my first real experience with suburbs. Everything seemed so far away from everything else but inside the house my grandma was still either in the kitchen or sewing so all seemed warm and kind. She was very nice to my black mutt, Hermie, who came with us, except she did not like it when he'd steal raw bacon from the counter before she had a chance to put it in that old, black cast-iron pan that must've been her mother's.
Soon after I went to live with my dad, she and my grandpa moved to Contra Costa county in California to be near my uncle (their son) and his family. I was stunned. I had no idea that grandparents were allowed to just pick up and move to a different state like that. And to one so far away, no less.
I saw her less after that, of course, but she was always close in my heart. Her letters were the best. Pages and pages of handwritten details. Sometimes she'd run out of ink in the middle of a page and have to change pens. Seeing the ink fade to almost nothing and then get really dark again with an ink glob or two from the fresh ball point pen was always a kick — I could picture her having to get up and find another pen and hurry come back to finishing that sentence before she lost her train of thought.
She lived 94 years and passed away in June. She’d given up her smokes two decades earlier (simply put them down after 50+ years) and then her bourbon a couple of years ago when she moved into the assisted living center. She never gave up her witty quips, though, and continued to read the paper until the very end. I’m not sure I’ve fully accepted the fact that she’s not here anymore. I think that’s because I can still hear her voice as clear as ever in my mind — I like it that way.