One year ago, my Grandma Marge passed away. It has been a long and heartbreaking year since her passing. I, along with my family, have had our good and bad days. Sometimes the bad outnumber the good, as we all deal with the grief in different ways.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am probably one of the most upbeat people they’ll ever meet. Somehow, I’ve kept an upbeat attitude during this time, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It’s not easy to watch the people you’re closest to deal with an emptiness they can’t fill. It’s even harder, I think, to watch these people cope with this sadness while you yourself are broken, because you want to help them. But I learned you have to try and help yourself too. I learned the way for me to deal with this grief is through laughter. I think Katie Heaney (author of one of my favorite books, “Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date,” which, side note, is a very weirdly accurate description of my very non-existent love life) says it best: “You always forget that it’s impossible to grieve every minute of the day. You always forget that a mourning period can include laughter, but just because it’s there it won’t mean that you’re really okay.”
I’m exuding a sense of happiness and positivity as I’m piecing myself back together. There is no way I’d be able to pick myself back up again if I didn’t, so I’ve tried to find the the good and fun moments in each day since my grandma left us. She wouldn’t want me to broken and grieving forever. She knew better than anyone how to get back up again when life gets you down: After her first stroke, she very easily could have given up, but she didn’t, and at 84 years old, she taught herself how to walk again.
Learning to walk again without my grandma in my life hasn’t been the easiest thing to do. But I can without a doubt say that it’s made me a stronger woman–one I’m sure my grandma would be proud of. Now, whenever I feel myself being consumed with grief, I remember the small, hilarious moments I had with my Grandma Marge. There were so many, and they are stories I will cherish and tell for the rest of my life. Here are two of my favorites.
THE LITTLE GIRL IN THE BASEMENT
My grandma loved horror movies. Any type of horror movie, really, whether it was Halloween or some love murder Lifetime movie. She would watch these movies with Maggie when she was little, and they would sit there and laugh at all the blood and gore.
When my grandparents and Aunt Rose moved into the house across the alley from us, I knew from the get go that I was terrified of their basement. It was half furnished, but wasn’t going to be utilized except for storage and laundry. It was dark and the stairs creaked, and I just about never went down there unless I absolutely had to. Because it was an older house, there was also an old rotary phone in the basement that still worked. Whenever anyone would call the house, that old rotary phone would ring too. While I thought this phone was cool and super retro, I would have enjoyed it much more if it was upstairs and not in my grandma’s creepy basement. It rang an old 1950’s ring from the basement that echoed through the entire house through the ventilation, therefore freaking me out every single time someone called.
The summer after my grandma’s first stroke, Maggie and I were over at her house one night for dinner. While Aunt Rose was cooking, my grandma, Maggie and I were in the living room watching what I assume was a love murder Lifetime flick. My grandma and Maggie were consumed in the movie, while I was hiding under a blanket reading what was probably Harry Potter fan fiction on the couch. I could hear the movie in the background even though I wasn’t paying attention, when all of a sudden I heard a loud beep. I came out from under my blanket shelter to see that it was actually storming outside, and all the lights and the TV were off. The power had gone out. We didn’t know when the power was going to come back on, so Aunt Rose and I found some candles and put them all over the living room and kitchen. We all sat eating dinner by the candlelight, and it was weirdly calming.
Then the phone rang.
But wait, didn’t the power go out? Yes it did. It was the old rotary phone that was ringing. The old rotary phone that still worked, even when the power goes out.
I jumped a little in my seat and Maggie laughed at me. My grandma and Aunt Rose were silent. I looked across the table at my grandma, my sweet grandma. The phone rang again as she looked up at me from her plate of spaghetti.
“Oh,” she said, looking at me through through the candlelight. “That must be the little girl in the basement.” She went back to eating her spaghetti. I whimpered a little. Aunt Rose and Maggie busted out laughing.
I’ve barely set foot in that basement since then. I have no intention of going down those creaky steps now that my grandma’s passed because, with my luck, my grandma will try to get herself a laugh at my expense by making something fall over while I’m down there, just to see me run back up, thinking it was actually the little girl in the basement she had joked about.
MY GRANDMA FELT ME UP IN TARGET
When I was in about fifth grade, I decided to join the volleyball team. I signed up for the team even though everyone in my family knew I was wholeheartedly not an athlete. I wanted to do it to prove I could do normal extracurricular activities like everyone else in my grade, instead of just being pinned as the girl who incessantly read Harry Potter. (This obviously never subsided. I continued to suck at sports and my love for Harry Potter is undying.)
This was also the year that my grade started to have separate boys and girls’ gym classes, and that meant that we also had to start using the creepy old locker rooms so we could change out of our school uniform and into our gym uniform.
Since this started, I had been in the habit of wearing spaghetti-string tank tops under my school uniform, because both my mom and I had thought I had not yet been bequeathed enough to wear an actual bra yet.
My grandma, on the other hand, had other ideas. My mom, grandma and I were in Target about a week before practices were set to start, and suddenly my grandma told us to follow her because she had to look for something. The next thing we knew, my grandma was leading my mom and I into the girl’s bra section. She looked my mom square in the face and said with her finger pointing, “It’s time for you to get this girl a bra. She’s old enough and she needs to learn how to shop for bras.”
Then, without any warning, my grandma picked out a white sports bra, held it up to my chest and subsequently started to feel me up to ensure she was choosing the right size bra. I looked at my mother dumbfounded and completely embarrassed. My mom had the same look on her face as I did, but the only difference was that after about 10 seconds of looking utterly horrified for me, she crossed her arms in front of her and kept trying to stifle laughter. My grandma quite literally felt that the first bra she chose was not going to work for me so she started looking for another one. As embarrassed as I was, I was very relieved that this section of the store was shrouded by other racks of clothing. This way no one would notice that my grandmother repeatedly putting bras up to my chest and stretching them to see if they would be a good fit for my boobs that had barely even started to come in.
Eventually my grandma found a bra that she deemed fit enough for me. She grabbed a second one in the same size and handed them to my mother. “Here,” she said. “I’m done now. Get whatever else you need to get and then let’s go get food. I’m hungry.”
She grabbed the cart and pushed it out of the aisle, with my mother and I looking after her, still trying to process that my grandma had just felt me up in the middle of Target.
*This post has been reformatted from an assignment I wrote in my creative nonfiction writing class at Ball State University. All graphics are by me.
I have come to the conclusion that my life is like a romantic comedy, only there is no actual romance and it’s just me laughing at my own terrible jokes. I have been single for twenty-two years and I will admit, it sucks a lot of time. But, a lot of the time it’s also kind of wonderful. I’ve learned to become a strong and independent person and because of that, I know what I want out of life. Life still doesn’t come without bouts of loneliness and one-girl self-pity parties and most of the time I’m convinced I’ll be eternally single. I’ve had quite a few hilarious musings on love and I’ve had some fun experiences as a single girl attempting to be on the prowl.
1. In which I create sensible criteria for a boyfriend:
2. In which I actually ask myself serious questions when encountering a real life, attractive member of the opposite sex at a bar
3. In which I celebrate Valentine’s Day (alone)
4. In which I think I have seen my soulmate on the Subway
5. In which I beat a dead horse
6. In which I get prematurely excited about my phone buzzing at 7:30 a.m.
7. In which I am bipolar about whether or not I actually enjoy being single