Friday, October 12, 2007

"When I get where I'm goin'..."

You never want that phone call. The dreaded phone call that tells you the worst news you can imagine about a person you love. The phone call that will inevitably make you say things like "I wish I had called more" or "I wish I had gotten down there for one more game" or "I wish she could have seen just one more Red Sox World Series". The call that makes you feel guilty, that you wish you could be everything to everyone even though you know it's totally unrealistic - and you hope that the person understood, even though you'll never know.

I got that call yesterday from my aunt Gail on my way home from work. My Nana passed away yesterday afternoon after a week and a half long stay in the hospital. The breathing troubles got the best of her and she made her way to the Lord. I didn't know what to say... all I could get out was "Oh my goodness..." and a wave of guilt came over me.

Why didn't I call when I got back from Tennessee? Why didn't I make the effort to just play one more game of cards with her last month? Does she know how much she meant to my brother and I for all that she did for us growing up?

A million things have been flying through my head. Memories, all sorts of memories. Ones from when we were younger and she used to play cards with us and watch over me with smiling patience as I depleted her yarn collection to make friendship bracelets. The look of wonder and knowledge on her face when she looked out her kitchen window to her birdfeeder and watched the various finches, chickadees, and blue jays munch on the sunflower and corn kernels. The squirrel that our family had named Rocky that stayed around her house for years and would eat peanuts right out of her hand. The smile on her face during our last visit in late August when she showed me her tomato plant outside her front door.

Our last visit. We played Skip-Bo and she kicked my butt. Every time we played she would claim she forgot how to play, and then give me a royal trouncing. When I would call her a hustler, she would just smile and claim her forgetfulness again. Our card visits are some of the best memories I have of her over the last couple of years. Just her and I every other month or so, with some take out food and a good game of cards. In between one of the hands, she looked at me and kind of smiled. We had been having a great time that night, she was in a rare great mood (her moods had been more grouchy than cheerful the last few months) and we had been joking and laughing all evening. I asked her what was on her mind.

"Well, the other day I was cleaning out that room where Jimmie used to sleep when you guys came down here. I found one of those little balls he used to play with and... well I don't know. I got all nostalgic."

I smiled. She looked at me again and said, "You know... I always wondered what you guys thought when your father would pick you up, and then drop you off here and disappear while I took care of you kids."

I looked at her. I saw a glimpse of the Nana I knew during those years, and I smiled again. "We didn't think anything of it," I assured her. "Those were our visits with Nana, and that was what we thought of it. Just visiting with Nana."

We both smiled. I dealt the next hand of Skip-Bo... and she trounced me like she always did.

Last night my mind drifted to those visits years ago. Early Saturday morning until Sunday after lunch, we would hang out with Nana at her place. We'd watch baseball, we'd play with baseball cards, we'd play cards or help her with her puzzles. We'd color or draw and when we were really little she would read to us. Sometimes we'd drive "down Gail's" and hang out there with Gail and Dave and their kids, sometimes my father would join us. We didn't see my father much during those weekends, just a lot of Nana and that was really all we needed. I would bug my father to pick us up for the weekend, knowing that the better part of it would be spent hanging out with Nana. We would hate to see those weekends end, and when I grew up it was one of the things I missed about being a kid; being able to just go to Nana's for the weekend.

Sometimes at the end of those visits when my father would put us in the car to bring us home, Nana would come along. In Lynnfield, as you come down Walnut Street and get onto 128/95 South, among all the live trees to the left hand side of the ramps there stood one dead one. It was kind of artful with the way its branches reached out in all directions and was shorter and grayer than the rest of the trees; but it was most definitely dead. Every time we would enter the ramp to get on the highway, if Nana was with us she would look at the tree, point at it, and say "I love that tree. That's my tree."

I'm not sure why she loved a dead tree. But every time she would see it - "That's my tree." When I finally got a license and a car and would drive myself for visits, every time I got on the highway I would see that sad, dead tree and say "There's Nana's tree." Soon after Nana's first visit to the hospital, I noticed on the way back from a visit back in 2000 that the tree was gone. I wasn't quite sure what to think; the city of Lynnfield had left that dead tree there for so long that I just thought they would always leave it there. But there it wasn't.

Nana stayed with us 7 years longer than the tree did. She was in and out of the hospital, and I tried to visit when I could. I can't regret what I didn't do, and just hope that she knew how much I love her and how much she meant to Jim and I.

Nana, I hope that you have your tree with you up in Heaven and that it is full of the leaves it never had. I hope that Rocky is bounding about eating peanuts out of your hand like he did before. I hope that you've found Papa and that you're both holding hands watching over us. Please give him a hug for me and tell him I love him. I love you, I will certainly miss you, and I hope you know how much you meant and were cared for.


Kimberly Pye said...

Maybe I'm just getting teary-eyed in my old age, but I had to keep switching over to the Instituto de Banca y Comercio web site ( and do a little work several times while reading your entry to give my eyes a chance to dry out before any drops leaked down my cheeks.

A lovely entry. I think she knows how much you loved her.

Kstar said...

I know how much your Nana meant to you and I am so sorry for your loss. The good part is she is having a great time up in Heaven and not sick anymore. Again, please let me and Dougie know if you need anything at all...

Maria said...

Danielle, I am so sorry to hear about your Nana. I know it's easy to have regrets about what you "would have done" or "should have done", but it sounds like you have a lot of good memories together. I am sure that your Nana knew that she was a special person in your life and that she is proud of the woman that you have become.

Kat said...

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. From your post I can tell that she knew how much you and your brother loved her.
However I can sympathize with your feelings. My grandpa passed away when I was abroad for a year and I hated myself for never saying a "special" good bye.
Only years later I came to realize that it may have been for the best because we both kept the picture of how we were in our hearts.
I am sure she loved you very much and knew how much she meant to you and your family.

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

I am sorry for your lose. My grandmother passed away a year yesterday. Everyday gets a little easier to get through, I promise you that.

Liz said...

Danielle, I got to your blog from Gregs. I am very sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope the act of writing/typing your feelings has had a cathartic effect for you. I have found over many years and adversities that writing my thoughts helps as much (if not more) than talking your feelings through with someone.

It sounds as though you have faith, and if you lean on God, he will see you through this.

GMadrid said...

Hey Danielle!

Great entry about your Nana. Memories are awesome and hopefully you will be able to share a ton of those stories with generations to come of your family.

Hang in there and know she is smiling down upon you now.

Mags said...

Thinkin' of you today...((HUGS))