My maternal grandmother, Grandma Fluf (also known as Bette), died in 2002 when I was a senior in high school. Her funeral was scheduled the same day as my senior project presentation. My mom thought I'd be able to attend the open-casket service in Connecticut and then drive home to Maine and present the same night. But I sobbed through the song I was supposed to sing at the funeral because there was my grandmother's dead body behind me. I didn't present that night.
My paternal grandmother, Nana (also known as Fern), died in 2003 after my freshman year in college. I hadn't seen her since my parents split up, but the summer before she died, my brothers and I drove to St. George and back in one day to see her and say goodbye. It made me feel terrible for all the years we lost after my dad burned down our house.
My paternal grandfather, Bill, died about five years ago in 2011. I hadn't seen him since visiting my Nana that summer in St. George. My brothers, sister-in-law, and I went to see him in a care facility nearby to say goodbye. He was in and out of consciousness, but I like to think he recognized us. Our old family photos were tacked up on the walls in his room. He died in the week following our visit.
My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Dan (also known as Vito), died about a year and a half ago in 2014. He had been living at my mom's house for the last several years. I was able to see him each time I visited home, and I'm glad he got to visit with Lincoln twice the year he was born. I didn't get to say goodbye to Grandpa Vito before he died.
Grandma Fluf was a grumpy old lady. She called me Libby. I got lost in the woods at her house once and as punishment she made me sit on the side of the pool and watch my older brother swim. She smoked, but never in front of us. I only knew because I discovered cigarette butts in her blue station wagon's ash tray. I didn't even know that's what an ashtray was for. She had colorful, tiny glass bottles all around her house. She decorated with what seemed like hundreds of stuffed bears. She had a toy slot machine in her kitchen and I thought it was scandalous. She was a skilled artist and made beautiful ceramics.
Nana was full of energy and was rumored to have amazing hearing. Her house in Hurricane had the softest, thickest grass I've ever felt. She had an irrigation ditch near her house that I walked in with my cousins. She let me have giant mini wheats for breakfast with as much sugar on top as I wanted.
Grandpa Bill made a bed for my Kirsten doll and I used it for everything. It served as a shelf for my grocery store when propped up with books. It hauled toys around the house. It did occasionally sleep a doll. He made a stool for Seth that my kids use when we go over to his house. He made a beautiful coffee table out of a redwood slab and its roots that was lost in our house fire. He ate orange peels. He didn't talk much. I liked the way he laughed, though.
Grandpa Dan took us fishing. He and I shared birthday parties since his birthday is April 7 and mine is April 9. We had a cake with a fish frosted on it once. He was always singing, and I unknowingly sing aloud the same songs he taught me as a kid. My kids are learning them too. He always said "hard work ain't easy." He would sit down to a meal, look at the spread and ask, "I wonder what the poor people are eating tonight." Then he'd list what was on the table before us. He made buggies that we drove like madmen down his steep driveway. He had a huge woodpile behind his house and a shed that smelled like gasoline. His model trains spanned half the perimeter of his cellar, and he always had a pile of fake dog poop on his work bench. He and Fluf kept the good ice cream in the cellar freezer, and the photo albums were stored on a shelf over the top of the stairs. I liked to stop and look at the albums on my way down to get the ice cream.
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