The first time I met my would-be-husband’s family, I crashed their family reunion. We had been together about a month and it would only be five more until we were engaged, so maybe that sounds like a weird first encounter, but really, I think we just knew this was it and there was nothing odd at all about diving in headfirst.
I’d like to think Ben’s grandma, Louise, knew it, too, because she was the one who insisted I be in the group photo, front and center next to Ben (Cox/Welsch crew: if anyone has that photo, can you snap a copy and send it to us, please?). I wouldn’t put it past her to have had that kind of super power because she was indeed a wonder of a woman.
Unfortunately, my use of the past tense is not accidental. After a decline that began in March, that we all had thought/hoped was turning out to be a miraculous recovery, Louise passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning. So here we are, once again, faced with paying respects and giving our kids, and ourselves, one more lesson in life and loss and goodbyes.
What. A. Year.
I’ll be honest, this one hits hard for me. It’s way too soon after saying goodbye to both of my remaining grandparents (Ben still has two, now), but it is also that I feel this loss like it is my own. Geographically, Louise and her husband Eugene have been the closest ones to us in our married life which meant we saw them more, but really from Day One, Louise treated me like one of her own. Always caring, always asking after my work and my family, always wondering, in early days, when that first great grandbaby was going to come, and after early days, how each of those great grand babies was doing.
The weekend before last, Ben took the Big Four to see her and since I couldn’t go, I wrote a card that he was able to share with her. In it, I teased her (gently, with love, in a way to hopefully bring about that kind flash smile/eye twinkle that she had) that in those early days she was always telling me that she was only going to live to 83, so would I kindly please get on it with the great grands. I told her I was so glad she didn’t call it quits then because, instead, she got to meet, hold, love on, and know all five of my babies, and for that we were all so lucky.
Technically that card turned out to be my goodbye to her but it is not the end of my memories of her. She will forever in my mind be the one who came to see four of my five babies when they were still hospital brand new and deemed each one “SUCH a nice baby” (& who always wanted to know if they had blue eyes in every subsequent phone call and/or card sent). The one who LOVED the color red and was thrilled to buy us the Fiestaware gravy boat from our wedding registry because it was one of the pieces I had picked in her favorite hue (plus super appropriate piece coming from the woman who hosted countless and delicious family dinners). The one who collected quilts and made sure to give us one for each baby. The one who helped make some of their blankets, too. The one who played Five Crowns and Play Nine (& other countless card games) with us and our children. The one who sent me a sympathy card when my grandpa Cliff died and told me how lucky I was to have a grandpa for so long.
She was right about that. But here is what I also know: I may have only been able to call her mine for 12 years and not 36 like my two 89-yr-olds we’ve lost this year (Louise would have been 89 next month), but I am by far a better person and a better mother because of her.