Everyone should have a person in their life who loves them no matter what and is always there for them.
For me, that was my Grandma Harris.
God I loved her, and I still do to this day.
My Grandma Cotter died when I was about 7 or so, and she was very ill before that, so I don’t have a lot of memory of her. And my Grandpa Harris died when I was about 5 or 6, I guess.
Then my Mom got divorced and we moved in with Grandma Harris – or just Grandma, as she was to me and always will be.
I am sure it was not easy on my Mom to have to go back to living with her mother, but for me it was a little piece of heaven.
After a couple of years, though, Mom remarried.
It was not a happy circumstance for us kids, but we didn’t get a vote.
I remember one day, I had simply had it, and I “ran away” to my Grandma’s house. Not really that far, she lived a few blocks on the far side of the elementary school I attended.
Horror of horrors. She was not home!
So I plopped my butt on the front porch steps and waited … and waited.
I was prepared to wait there forever.
Finally, my folks showed up, looking for me, very unhappy with me, and took me home.
I was so unhappy, my folks told me that I had a choice of living with my Mom (and her new husband) or with my Dad (and his new family) – but if I chose my Dad, I would never ever be able to see my beloved Grandma again.
Can you imagine doing that to a child?
Of course, it wasn’t a real choice.
I know this, because I finally chose my Dad, and went to the basement to start packing my toys.
My stepfather brought me upstairs to show me my mother crying and telling me what a horrible person I was for making her cry.
Well, what kind of horrible persons were they for lying to me? For making a child make that kind of heartbreaking choice?
So life went on. We moved across town from my Grandma – so it was unlikely that I would ever try “running away” to her, at least until I could drive, again.
Oddly, I have repeating dreams to this day, of walking from my folks’ house to my Grandma’s house – across the bridge, through downtown, and down Center Avenue. I don’t remember if I ever made this walk, but it certainly is possible.
Then something terrible happened at home. I don’t want to go into it, but I felt I needed to leave my folks’ house immediately.
I called my Grandma and asked if I could move in with her. She asked no questions and I offered no explanations.
And she said, “Of course.”
I threw some stuff in the trunk of my car and went and lived with my Grandma.
I lived with her quite awhile.
I did live with my sister Linda in her trailer, after her divorce, but then Grandma had cataract surgery and so I moved back with Grandma to keep an eye on her (and to fish that stupid contact out of the back of her eye from time to time.
Grandma and I almost always got along. We were a lot alike.
I moved to California, and visited from time to time – staying with my Grandma whenever possible.
And then, after a bad fall, Grandma moved in with my Uncle Bob and his family.
She asked about me a lot and wanted to know when I was coming back so we could move back to her house.
But, I am ashamed to say, I was too selfish. I wanted my own life.
I had seen my Cousin Shirley Mae spend her entire life taking care of her bitter and infirm mother; and that kind of life scared the living fuck out of me.
And finally, Grandma passed away.
I wasn’t able to be there with her, and I wasn’t able to go home for the funeral.
This is when I learned the very difficult lesson that goodbyes are important.
My darling Cousin Alice and her husband bought Grandma’s house, so whenever I go to Michigan, I am able to go to that place of refuge and visit.
Alice and her husband take wonderful care of the house and the yard, and always with a mind as to what Grandma would have wanted.
I am so sorry Grandma that I could not be there for you the way you were always there for me; and I will love you forever for being the kind, funny, wonderful lady that you were and all the good things you taught me.
Now, I need to stop, because the sweet memories are running down my cheeks.