It's Christmas here in Australia. I took Jake for a walk in the afternoon. The sky was grey and the humidity was stifling. It's been about an hour since then and there is a thunderstorm raging outside. Rumbling, rolling, raining. There is nothing in this world I enjoy more than lightning and thunder (except maybe Disneyland...maybe).
I sat down a few weeks ago to write Christmas Cards and only finished half of them. Now I'm stuck with about 12 stamps for the US at $2.25 a piece. Maybe I'll send the cards late, or maybe I'll keep them and see if I can't send a postcard from Europe to the US with an Australian stamp. I'd so much rather send a letter or a card to tell someone I care.
The reason I stopped midway through my card writing this season was because on my list of recipients was "Grandma?". I wasn't sure she would make it to Christmas and the thought of that stopped me cold. I couldn't muster another card, another "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". Every time I saw "Grandma?" I'd stop and start to reminisce.
When I was 10-years-old, my parents (who I will forever forward refer to as "my folks") were traveling around the US. My father was interviewing for a job, which he'd eventually get in Florida. It was winter and they placed me in Cleveland (my city of birth...and theirs too for that matter). For a few weeks, I stayed with my Grandmother and Grandfather. I remember playing Lego (it was a ranch scene, with horses). I remember waiting at a snowy bus stop with my Grandmother before heading off to school. I remember giving my Grandma hell about something, though now I can't remember what. I just know that I was sitting on the stairs, which ran from the bedrooms upstairs into the living room. I refused to move. I remember wondering why I never saw anyone use these stairs (they all used the other set from upstairs to the dining room). It distracted me from my resolve and before I knew it, Grandma was winning the argument. She was a strong woman and wasn't going to give in to whatever my demands were. I'm sure she made me cinnamon toast for breakfast one of those days, cut diagonally. At night, we'd watch a movie and she'd make popcorn on the stove. She'd always add Jujubees to the bowl of popcorn for a secret surprise. In the dark, you never knew what flavour you were going to get.
I couldn't help but think of the audio tapes she sent me when we'd first moved out of Cleveland. I listened to one a few years ago. She said that she was so glad we could keep in touch this way. Hear each other's voices. At one point, she said that my Uncle (a musician - excellent guitarist) and my Grandfather were working on a song. She wasn't sure how it was progressing but she'd let me hear a little. The next thing on the tape was a Neil Diamond song she'd spliced in. "I don't know. It's ok. They're still working on it," she said. Always the comedienne.
Once, when I was very little, probably 5 or 6, she got an old reel-to-reel and played me a video. I remember she set it up in the closet because it was daytime and that was the darkest place we could find. She said something like, "This is your Grandfather and I before we had children." And flying across the sky were these figures, spinning and soaring between trapezes. I couldn't believe my eyes. What amazing skill they had. I looked at Grandma and believed her, but of course I later learned it was The Flying Wallendas. Always the kidder.
No matter where we moved, or where I moved when I was old enough to live on my own, Grandma would send me a Christmas Card. She'd tell me that she loved me and was proud of me. The card would be short and sweet and at the bottom she'd write xoxoxo and draw two figures. Just stick figure heads. One of my Grandma and one of my Grandpa (with a hat). When he passed away, probably close to 10 years ago now, she stopped the drawings, but always signed with love xoxoxo.
I will not be getting a Christmas card from my Grandma this year. She passed away on December 17th. The last of my grandparents. The only grandparent I felt that I got to know. I'll speak for myself, though I think the whole family would agree, the way my grandmother slowed down and passed away was the most anyone could hope for. Of course, I wasn't there but I kept in contact with her and those around her. She went from living on her own, to living with my Aunt, to living in a Nursing Home. From getting out and about, to staying in her room, to staying in her bed. From talking with everyone, to sleeping most of the time, to stepping over. Out of this world and into the next.
Though I miss her, I am not sad this Christmas. I know she's up there at a big birthday party in Heaven. That Jesus invited all his friends to celebrate and enjoy everything. I hope that my grandma is young again and dancing her heart out. Maybe that's what the lightning and thunder are about today. They're really partying up a storm in Heaven.
I love you Grandma. Merry Christmas.