Monday, February 14, 2011

To Venna From Santa

Speaking of very. last. things . . .

My gigi has changed since her stroke. She's recovered splendidly, but she's not the same.

She made us throw away all of her puzzles. She says she never wants to do another puzzle as long as she lives.

Things change. People change. Life goes on. Without puzzles.

We've had to move Gigi from her retirement community into an assistant living facility.

I really wanted to help sort through and move her things--linger over them without being rushed and having to make decisions. (Actually I wanted to spend the night in her apartment by myself before it was dismantled, but my hub thought that was a little creepy.)

It wasn't creepy, it was just me not wanting to forget. The old Gigi. The one who could do 1,000 piece mosaic puzzles without batting an eye.

See I never got to look through my dad's apartment after he died. Not that I couldn't have, I just didn't. Sometimes I still walk through his apartment in my mind, but I can't place anything specific. I don't know where anything belongs? What books were left open on the nightstand? What kind of toothpaste did he use? Was his bed made? Was his bathroom clean?

(Please, please, please don't let me die until my bathrooms are clean.)

Two things I remember about the autopsy report. He died of an overdose, and he had peaches in his stomach.

His last meal was a bowl of peaches.

Peaches is one thing I know will be there when I open his fridge in my mind. Everything else is a fill-in-the-blank.

I didn't want all those empty spaces with my Gigi. When I go through her apartment in my mind, I want to know what's in her fridge. That's why last Saturday morning I went over to her place early, by my very own self, so I could linger over her life--her tidy compartmentalized drawers, stacked with little empty things. Little empty notebooks and address books, little empty purses and boxes. Even Papa's Purple Heart box was empty.

(If you ever need somewhere to store your thoughts or your addresses or your lipsticks or your Purple Heart, I can hook you up.)

I took my time, making mental notes about her neatly folded, brilliantly white underwear, and the enthusiastic collection of fake jewelry. The jumbo sized crossword puzzle books and the cowboy poetry. The walkman and the cassette tapes of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Glen Campbell and my Papa's funeral. And the 50-plus pair of her colored stretchy pants, (because, when you are a grandma, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room.) (hee hee) (Couldn't help myself.)

I wanted to touch everything and commit it to memory--shelve it right beside to all the other memories I have of Gigi before she lost interest in puzzles.

Most of these memories are linked to food--bean with bacon soup, pancakes, Oreos, quesadillas, Carnation Instant Breakfast, watermelon, Shasta Cola, Whoppers and taffy.

As a child I ranked my relatives according to how much they fed me.

Food was my primary lub language back then. Well, food and soap operas. My Gigi liked both so she spoke my language.

It stands to reason then that I should document my Gigi by the very. last. things found in her kitchen. Before the change:

  • 2 jars of pickles
  • Lemon Nestea
  • Green Tea (Gasp!)
  • 2 jars of bread and butter chips
  • 2 boxes of mac and cheese
  • Starbucks napkins
  • Cucumber Melon hand soap
  • Gourmet BBQ sauce
  • A bag of cheetos
  • 2 sugar ice cream cones
  • A bag of black eyed peas
  • 2 jars of Nutella
  • 4 boxes of granola bars
  • A can of sliced beets
  • A jar of spicy brown mustard
  • 8 oz jar of picante sauce
  • Horseradish
  • Nips
  • 6 jumbo sized boxes of Instant Breakfast
In her fridge there were a dozen water bottles, four mini diet Pepsi's, a drawer full of candy bars and a little red box with a tag reading To Venna from Santa.

Yes, I opened it, and yes it was chocolate.

My Gigi was a very good girl.

And a very good grandma.

Happy Valentines Day, Gigi.


Momza said...

I call the experience of wanting to touch and smell and remember everything just as it is a "Kodak Moment"...I have those from my babies' rooms, Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, UK, the Palace in Edinburgh...and many others. Places and things I never want to forget.
I hope you have an oppty to video your Gigi so you have her on film!!
Love that she loved sweet is that?!

springrose said...

Just before my Grampie moved out of the only house he and my Grammie owned I went and video taped the whole thing. With him standing there, talking to me. It is a prized possession now! He is gone, two years almost and Grammie died when I was in 9th grade. So in other words a life time ago. But I have that wonderful home full of memmories on film and in my mind, I had to have both for when I start to forget! So glad I filmed it, after he sold it the buyer tore it down to put skinny houses on it! I haven't been back since before they tore it down. I don't want to remember it that way. I want it to always stay the same in my mind. Just the way it was for over 65 years.
Happy Valentine's Day to you and your Gigi!!!

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

So fun. I've never known any of my extended family, not even my grandparents. So it's been fun to see my own kids and their interactions with their grandparents!

Becca said...

1. My kids don't see the brilliance of bread and butter pickles. Cretins.
2. Moving to an assisted living facility is a hard step. For the grandmas and for us.
3. My Nana (great-grandma) fed us Ritz. And when her memory started to fade, she'd ask us over and over if we'd had our cracker yet. It got creepy, to tell you the truth, and to this day, Oakland, CA smells like a Ritz cracker.
4. Have you read Louise Plummer's Thoughts of a Grashopper? Your lists are reminiscent. And I love her.

Becca said...

Oh, yeah - and this:
5. I have told my husband, several times and usually when I'm serving in a RS presidency, "When I die, before you even call your MOTHER, you clean behind every toilet in this house. Or Else."

Melanie Jacobson said...

Man. Ranking your relatives by how much they fed you.

You are such a good writer.

This is actually kind of a perfect Valentine's post.

Kazzy said...

I remember when my grandma changed. It was so hard. Warm hugs.

Sandi said...

I'm feeling like we have been getting very intimate glimpses into your son's and gigi's lives...peeking into his backpack and her fridge! pretty interesting stuff.
like Becca up there^ I also have a pact with my friend that if either of us die, the other one will go in and heavy duty clean before anyone else is allowed in our house..haha it's a very real fear for me!! Now I am going to have to make sure that she covers the fridge and pantry too!
LOVE the stretchy pants reference :)
p.s. baby is due July 1st

Garden of Egan said...

I'm so sorry Gigi doesn't want to do puzzles any more.
You have a plethora of awesome memories and I totally understand you wanting to touch, to commit to memory.

Bless you both.

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Yes bless you both.