Saturday, January 16, 2010

That One Corner

I don't know why exactly, but I've been thinking about my grandmother a lot the last few days. She passed away last summer after a long period of convalescence that was particularly difficult on my immediate family. Mema spent the last 11 months of her life living in my parents' home, with my mother as her primary caregiver. My mom is a nurse by trade, so her schedule went much like this:

M-F: wake up at 4AM, get ready for work, and work from 6-12 ish(a nurse never works a real set shift, it's kind of up to whenever she feels least guilty for leaving). Get home as soon as possible to "relieve" the daytime caregiver, and spend the next 8 hours battling with my grandmother to eat, watching judge shows and Jeapordy on TV, never get a minute to herself, etc. until time for bed, when a huge argument ensued between the two of them about the use of a guardrail so that my very weak but strong-willed Mema wouldn't roll out of bed. Throughout the night, Mema would call out in her sleep either in pain, or yelling the names of her dead sisters over and over. In the morning, she would accuse my mother of not coming to her when she called. Saturdays were much teh same, except without the distraction of leaving for work. Most Sunday she was able to leave for about 6-8 hours while my uncle came over. For nearly a year, she could not have a peaceful time in her own home. It was devastating and made the relationship between them very strained.

As bitter as her end was, I feel like the cherished memories of Mema are finally flooding back, and it hits me like a brick some days that I will never walk into her home again and see her quilting.

On our way to an N.C State basketball game today, we passed her old neighborhood and I thought about the times when my husband and I were dating and had just moved in together. "Now John, don't you let me watch this next basketball game by myself, you hear?" She'd say when she found out I had to work and evening that our men's basketball team was playing. I know she probably didn't watch the games when we weren't around, but she liked having a common bond with the man she knew I would marry before I even knew it. Now, I am sad to know that he never will be able to take her up on the offer, and I wonder if she was alone the last time she watched a game.

I think about her favorite Christmas tradition. She had all of us over on Christmas Eve, and the next day she spent travelling from place to place, seeing what Santa had brought all of her grandchildren. She always came to our house first so that she could have Christmas breakfast with us.

I miss some of the things we made fun of, especially her funny dialect. The way she would say "unh-huh", and how for nearly two solid years how almost every time she saw our (female) dog, she would point and ask, "is he gonna get any bigga?" The way she ended every phone conversation with, "well, bye." I really miss coming over and picking vegetables from her garden, and then having a huge meal of fried okra, butter beans, cucumbers in vinegar, field peas, corn, and always sliced tomatoes.

The thing that I will most cherish, though, is the quilt she made me. She made one for each of her family members, and for some reason she constantly consulted my opinion for mine. Instead of surprising me like she did for the rest, she made me come and pick out fabric, she showed me patterns and wanted to know which one I wanted, she showed me the stitched top before she battened and quilted. I vividly remembering noticing the one square in the corner that was turned the wrong way. As a perfectionist, I almost pointed it out when she asked if I was satisfied, especially because I knew it would have been a fairly easy fix, but something stopped me and made me just report that it was, in fact, exactly what I was hoping for. These days, that one mistaken corner is my favorite reminder of Mema, proof that my quilt is handmade, proof that she wasn't perfect but loved me enough to sew each one of these squares painstakingly together, proof that she was so distracted by her love for me that she rushed through this corner, trying to have it ready in time for whatever she was planning.

I miss Mema terribly these days, but through my quilt and my memories, I know she is always here with me.

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