Is It Ever Okay…?
I sit quietly in the bath tub, trying to make my stomach hurt less when it dawns on me. Today is May 25th. Oh. My. God. Today is May 25th, which means that 4 days ago it was May 21st. 4 days ago it was my only grandmother’s birthday and I forgot it. When does it become acceptable to let your life become so busy and intertwined, that you lose sight of something so important? You stop calling, you stop visiting them, you stop asking them for advice, you forget their birthday and then you let their memory slowly fade. Almost 12 years ago, I stopped calling my grandmother. I’ve visited her only twice in the past 12 years. Occasionally, I will still ask her for advice but on Saturday, I forgot her birthday for the first time in 32 years.
Doris Mae Paris was a firecracker in every aspect. She was a beautiful sight to see and could explode at any moment. She led a full and happy life with a handsome and perfect man until he lost his battle with lung cancer when I was very young. I think of the weekends where my cousin and I would lay on the living room floor coloring in our Flintstone coloring books while the smell of Schwann’s pizza, cheese and Ritz crackers and Jolly Rancher’s wafted through the house. Baseball season was my favorite and probably most memorable thing about my grandmother (besides the fact that she was an avid candy eater). She always had a baseball game on TV and if it wasn’t on there, she would find it on the radio. It’s odd that she loved baseball so much but I never remember her going to a baseball game.
I was never Mam’s favorite, as much as I wanted to be. I had some pretty hefty competition in 3 cousins that really could do no wrong. I kind of always thought that I was the underdog who had to fight just to try and stay at the end of the line. I was the girl who got married and pregnant at 17, I was a disappointment. I have to tell myself that for the last few years of my grandmother’s life, her and I became pretty close. I would drive up to Holt and pick her up and then take her out shopping or for groceries. We made a habit of going to Stephenson’s Restaurant (which is now gone) and often times, I would drive her out to my house in Lee’s Summit so she could play with my ferrets. My grandma never seemed like a huge animal lover but the joy on her face was priceless as she would lower herself to the floor so she could play with Slinky the bouncing ferret. While I hope that it was me and not the $100k paycheck at 18 and the nice things I ended up achieving, I am still glad that in the end we really got to know each other. We talked about raising chickens, writing, muddin’ (and I even got to take her once before she died), Crazy 8’s and cars. Baseball was another big conversation topic for us and still to this day, it is my favorite sport. I’m always sporting a raging boner on Opening Day.
In late August of 1999, my grandmother was scheduled for a routine surgery. While she was on the operating table, she aspirated and soon slipped into a coma. During the last few days of her life she had her family surrounding her. The last time I saw Mam, I really didn’t recognize her. I grasped her hand and I tried to be strong. I didn’t tell her to wake up, I just told her about Levi and work and life. I held back my tears as I told her that I loved her and once, as I was turning my head back from her monitors, I swear the grip on my hand tightened and she moved her head towards me. I looked down at her and kissed her forehead and I told her again how much I loved her. Then, I told her that it was okay for her to go. She stuck around many years after her soul mate died, she raised 3 grandchildren and she saw her first 2 great-grandchildren be born. Her life here on Earth was over but it would never be complete until she was in the arms of my grandfather again. We all knew it. When my grandfather died, Mam never stepped foot back in the bedroom to sleep. Eventually, she put a daybed in the living room because the pain of an empty bedroom was just too much. I whispered in her ear, “Thank you” and I walked out of the room and back to where all of my family waited. I later heard that my grandmother semi-awakened and said it was time for her to go and be with Pamp. She waited until the last of us slipped from the room and then she ran into the arms of my grandfather who she had missed for so long. Her life one Earth was over and it was finally complete.
I learned a lot from Mam. I learned naughty words as she watched the ballgames, I learned to cheat really well at Crazy 8’s, I fell in love with frozen juice popsicles, that cheese would soothe me even to this day, that cramps were a bitch and I just needed to “walk them off”, that roses will always be the most beautiful flower and no one can ever rival my grandmother’s, that slugs love beer but it’s depressing to clean up the pans by the Hosta’s and many other things. I learned so much, yet I forgot the most important day in her life.
I ask myself again, “Is it ever okay to forget?”. The only answer I seem to receive is tears. I’m sorry to have disappointed you, again.