Ten years ago, in August, my maternal Grandmother (Grandma) had a stroke. My daughter and I raced up to Michigan to spend some time with her because, according to my mother, this was the end. My paternal grandmother (G.G. – she felt she was too young to be called great-grandma) also lived in Michigan. When I told her we were coming she said she would change her travel plans so she’d be in town to see us. I told her, no. Go ahead with your plans. We’ll have lunch with you before you go. We have a limited time (just a long weekend) and we’ll be spending most of it with Grandma. But G.G. insisted.
We visited G.G. for lunch when we first arrived and then promised to spend time with her on our last day and go out for dinner with her before we were off to the airport.
The rest of the weekend was spent spending time with Grandma, trying to talk with her, sit with her, eat with her, telling stories. My daughter and her cousins played, picked blueberries, giggled and put on shows for us.
On our last day, I was spent. Emotionally. Physically. My sister and I decided to cut our visit with G.G. short. No dinner. Just visit with her for a little while and then off to the airport. I was exhausted with our whirlwind trip and I just wanted to be home. Besides, we were planning on a much longer visit with G.G. for Thanksgiving, one of her favorite holidays.
This decision was made on our way to G.G.’s house. And we were already running late. She expected us about an hour before. I was anxious about this – I hate being late – but there is no rushing my sister. When we were growing up and shared a room I used to set two alarm clocks just so we could be on time for swim practice in the morning.
G.G. was disappointed that we were late. She had every right. And then, her shoulders slumped when we told her we didn’t have time for dinner. She was so disappointed. I remember visiting with her on her screened in porch. Her eyes were a bit vacant. We were talking about recipes and she went to get her little file. As she was pulling out some favorites she handed one to my sister, a couple to me and said, “Just keep them. It’s not like I’m going to make them again.”
Our visit with her was typical. We laughed. We debated. We shared. She was a bright, strong, engaging, interesting woman. I loved our talks. But this particular visit was a tiny bit strained. A tiny bit awkward. I chalked it up to our disappointing her and promised myself I’d make it up to her when we came in November.
We packed up the kids to go. We kissed and hugged and said our goodbyes. And as we drove down the driveway I saw my G.G. standing there, next to her precious house, arms folded across her chest, looking smaller than I’ve ever seen her. She looked frail. She looked sad. I missed her already.
Without warning, she died a few weeks later. My sister called to tell me and even though she called her “Grandma” I knew exactly who she was talking about. But this wasn’t the Grandma that was supposed to die. This Grandma was strong, vibrant and healthy. I was supposed to spend a week with her at Thanksgiving and eat her famous turkey and cucumber salad and yummy chocolate chip cookie bars.
And my other grandmother, the one who had the stroke. Lived a few years more. Happily. And with many more visits from us.
We never know how much time we have with each other. We can’t count on the next holiday, the next Thanksgiving, the next weekend. My heart still aches for G.G. and I struggle with the regret I have, disappointing her so, on what was my very last visit with her.
Please know, G.G., if I had to do it all over again, I would have done things so differently that weekend.
“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again” – James Taylor