I never cried when Grandma died, and that surprised me. I love her dearly, and miss her greatly even though I wouldn't have gone home in the time between then and now were it not the trip for her funeral--somehow, deep in my psyche is an empty place matching the bed in which she no longer sleeps. I was sad to see her go, it still sobers me to think of her absence--but I do not cry, because Grandma Dumler and I have no unfinished business.
I've never had a fight with my grandmother. I never did anything to her that she didn't know about. Most especially, I can not remember a single conversation we had that didn't end with me telling her I loved her. I can't remember a single moment we spent together that didn't reflect how wonderful a person she is to me, from the shallow days of my youth when she showed her love with home-baked cookies and I reciprocated by gobbling them down, to the later days when we made an event of going out to Wendy's for a meal, just to spend a few hours with each other.
Regret, not sadness, not absence, is the true reason that we cry for lost loved ones. Regret for things left unsaid, for the times when we didn't show our love. And with all of my grandparents, I have no regrets. When my mother dies, I know that I'll hardly be able to contain myself--with regrets of the times we've argued, or the petty things I've said to her, or the advice I've disregarded, or...well, almost anything from my teenage years. But with my grandparents, the vagaries of daily life have never gotten in the way of love and its expression.
How does one remember such a figure? What words can I possibly say to preserve the memories of the woman who was my grandmother? Can I talk about her boundless energy, or her joyful humor? Or would it be better to focus on more mundane yet personable details, like her sharp bridge game or wonderful cooking skill?
It all comes down to memories. The associations that come up when I think of that sonorous name, Delma Irene Dumler. Her beautiful pressed-flower arrangements. Playing "Rook" at her dining room table, and her telling me her middle name when she wrote her initials on the scorecard. Her unfathomably wonderful cookie tins that she always sent us away with.
Funny moments. When I'd hug her too closely, her hearing aid would start whining and she'd always tell me "Ohhhh, you turn me on." (Good God, have you ever had your grandmother tell you that?) When she said that my cousin Renee's fiancee had a "sexy" telephone voice (and actually, upon further investigation, only meant to say "professional"). Her story about accidentally dropping my wagon and letting me roll down the driveway and across the street (to which my entire reply was "That was a bad trip, Grandma.").
Inspirational memories. Her artistic abilities--from flower arrangements to the gold-and-diamond necklace she always wore that she herself had made while working at a jeweler's. The love she had for her husband, even after more than sixty years. The beautiful quilts and cardigans she made.
Moments. Her finding a mouse in the lint screen of the dryer. Going to the Russell library and getting a few wonderful childrens' books I'd never heard of before. Teaching me to make her specialty Kase noodle recipe. The way she said "Ohhhh." The glass lamp I bought her when I was very young as a Christmas present: it never went with her decor but she never threw it away. It was still on a shelf the last time I ever went to her apartment...
That lamp is perhaps the best symbol of love between a grandchild and grandmother. The grandchild goes out and, in a fit of exuberance, gets something probably more expensive than he ought to afford and which is hardly a "good" present by adult standards. And yet when his grandmother moves and strips her possessions down to the minimum for her new and smaller home, she makes sure to save a space for the ridiculous gewgaw.
I can't fix my grandmother's memory in a short essay, no matter how hard I should try. In fact, I would be disappointed should I be able to easily summarize anyone important in my life. Instead, I try to give glimpses, a way of possibly recreating a single moment with this remarkable woman within my own mind, in hopes that this might communicate a fragment of who this person was to anyone who might happen upon this essay.
So long...that was a great trip, Grandma.