Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 89th birthday. We would have celebrated with her favorite dinner (shrimp Alfredo, which she liked the best when my father was the one making it). There would have been cake, or maybe milkshakes, depending on her mood.
There would have been laughter, and some grumblings about how she couldn’t believe she was still here, and that she hadn’t yet given up the ghost– a phrase she was growing fond of over the past two years.
My oldest would have scribbled all over a birthday card and then demanded she be able to keep it instead of handing it over.
My youngest, a round little thing not even four months old, would have watched the birthday candles with rapt attention.
There would have been laughter and gifts, there would have been good food and family gathered around the table or crammed in the living room.
There would have been all of that, and more, if she was still here.
My grandmother passed away this past February, five months shy of her 89th birthday and 17 months shy of her 90th. Her 90th, which I constantly told her to hold out for, because surely there would be a huge party for her.
She blew a hole in my heart and in my life on her way out. We spent just about every day together in her last two years. My toddler grew up at her feet. My family grew and expanded under a roof we all shared. Her absence echoes through our home.
It has gotten better these past few months, the echo of the missing life. Either that or the other louder sounds drown it out- the laughter, the endless chatter, and the fresh cries of a new baby. Those are the sounds that wake me up at night now, not the comforting hum of the oxygen concentrator down the hall.
There are moments now where I forget that sound ever even existed.
As time has passed I have felt my grandmother’s presence in varying strengths. Some days it looms while others it rests quietly in a corner.
Sometimes I think the baby sees her. She lays on the changing table, turns her head to focus on something just beyond my shoulder, and smiles. I can hear my grandmother’s voice, as clear as day, as she would have stood next to me, loudly critiquing my daughter. I can see the impossibly long nails at the ends of her bony fingers that would have danced in front of the baby’s face or tickled across her belly, the two of them laughing.
My grandmother was gone before she could ever meet her next great grandchild. I can only imagine the moments they would have shared. I enjoy doing it. It makes me feel like she is still here.
I haven’t felt that way as much lately. It’s like time has begun moving us too far away from the time when she was still in the room next to mine. I no longer wake in the middle of the night expecting to hear the familiar thump of her cane as she wanders through the house. I no longer wake at night searching it out.
Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 89th birthday. We didn’t eat shrimp Alfredo or have cake, but we did sing.
And I felt her presence the entire day.
Happy birthday grandmom. We miss you.