Grandma hated saying goodbyes. Even simple partings caused her eyes to glass over. Her checks would become streaked, while lines of water filled tears poured over her tan skin. She would turn to each of us and give us a hug and kiss goodbye. I still remember her embrace like it was yesterday but I can’t seem to describe it, it is more of a feeling. We would joke with her about getting so emotional at farewells and she would laugh and say her signature line, “Oh, Phooey!”
Gram lived in Arizona and we usually talked once a week. She would call and we would pass the phone around so we all got our chance. I remember a time she called and we talked about a recent trip of hers to California by bus. These trips were not unusual but she really wanted to tell me about this one especially the bus ride. She was sitting diagonally from a man dressed as a woman. I don’t remember all the details but she thought it was just the most unusual thing she had ever seen and couldn’t get over it(Grandma was born in 1920 and this was twenty years ago). We laughed and talked, said good bye and hung up as usual. I remember laughing as I retold the story of grandma’s dismay to anyone who would listen. If only I had realized that was to be our final conversation. Unfortunately, the next day my gram died, swimming laps in the pool.
I am sure she would have wanted our last conversation to be exactly the way it was, light and fun, laughing the whole time. Her simply recounting to me another bizarre experience in her life. Being burdened with the knowledge that it was our last conversation would have ruined it for both of us. Her emotions would have stopped her from sharing that tiny tidbit of her life with me. A tidbit that would have passed with her, and now, I can save. I couldn’t have saved her, but I can preserve her memory.
I don’t regret the conversation either. It was exactly the type of conversation we always had. My gram loved to tell stories and I loved to listen to them. I still remember bits and pieces of her stories but not like when I was young. I wish I had saved more of them. Now they are just snips of stories …being chased in a parking garage…, or guys lining up shoulder to shoulder to block the street.... Lost stories that she told religiously and I thought I would never forget, but I have.
When my grandmother died so did all of her great first person stories. Little memories that are gone forever. I regret letting them slip through the cracks. I wish I would have done more to keep them. At least I have some pieces of those stories and with them, pieces of her.