Please don't let me fear anything I cannot explain

My grandmother died yesterday.

I've spent the last 24 hours trying to think of what I wanted to write. In the process, I've come to the conclusion that the more someone means to you, the more impossible it seems to even begin to sum up those feelings with something as simple as words. There are feelings and lots and lots of memories, but to write them down makes them seem too one-dimensional. But I guess that's all we're left with.

My grandmother was what most people would call "a character." If you knew her for more than five minutes, she told you a story. Often it was one of the dozens of tales that she trotted out regularly as if she had some old book memorized. To you, however, the story would be new and fascinating, perhaps even a little more than you really wanted to know. This is why my grandma liked meeting new people. They hadn't heard her stories.

It's also why I liked introducing my grandmother to new people. They could listen to her old stories instead of me.

My roommates in college were big fans of my grandma's stories. She used to come to Columbia for checkups and then we were all off to her favorite restaurant - Taco Bell. None of her old lady friends could stomach greasy tacos, but she loved them. Soon my roommates had renamed her "Taco Grandma" or the more streetwise "Taco G." All she could do was smile and confirm that, yes, she "really did love them tacos."

The thing that I'll always remember about my grandmother was her endless sense of wonder. She loved to travel and would try about anything once. I took her to Washington DC during my senior year in high school and she spent 9/11 watching TV in my apartment in California while she was out for a visit. Every trip was the best she'd ever had and she was always up for another.

When I was in college and stressed out, I would call her at the last minute and ask if we could go down to her cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks for the weekend. She always said yes, and we'd pack up a few things and head into the woods. She'd pick up dead branches on the shore and I'd try to fish. They were quiet weekends and nothing much ever happened, but they were the perfect escape from college life. Sometimes you just need a hug and a cup of tea.

My grandmother's life had slowly slipped away to Alzheimer's in the last couple years. Her best days were undoubtedly behind her and to some extent it's a relief that she's gone to a calmer place. I'm left with some great memories and a collection of old stories that I've heard too many times to ever forget. That's a pretty great gift.


Kelly said...

I'm sorry, Eileen. I'll be thinking about you this week.

Shawn said...

Sorry to hear about Taco Grandma. She was a nice woman. I hope you're doing okay.

Eileen said...

Yeah, I'm o.k. I just wanted to write a little about what she meant to me.

ae said...

She sounds awesome, Eileen. I'm sorry for your loss. Have a safe trip and hurry back... work is very boring without you or Cheryl.

Melissa said...

Aren't older women cool? They are so over the territorial/competetive/catty behaviors that seem to define most women in the teen through 40's. What is with that?

I have known some kick-ass older ladies who are easy going and love to travel. Sounds like Taco grandma was one of that clan.

I hope that someday I can be one of those kick-ass old ladies. At least you have her genes! You are already on your way to kick-assed-ness.

I would love to read more on "The Adventures of Taco Grandma"!

Nancy said...

Eileen - Sorry to hear about your grandmother. But I really liked your post.