Goodbye Grandma, Thank You For The Lessons - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Goodbye Grandma, Thank You For The Lessons

Note: the following appeared as a personal post on Facebook.  I wanted to repost it here to explain why Can't Stop the Movies has been quiet recently.  My grandmother's celebration of life is this Friday and I will be returning to my full update schedule the following Monday.

One of my favorite reactions to a sudden realization about how/why I'm the way I am came from my friend Paul back in Ohio. He was asking me some questions about my family and I launched into my usual rambling spiel about mom 'n pops. A solid two beats of silence followed the end of my spiel while he stared at me, blankly, and eventually said with a surprising amount of purpose, "So much about you makes sense now."

If I were to transfer that spiel into text, and will have to someday, it should be annotated heavily with footnotes and asides about my grandma. She cultivated my reading habit with weekend trips to the bookstore and sleepover visits where we'd read Beatrix Potter stories aloud. While I played with toys or listened to the Rubber Ducky record from Sesame Street, she'd be doing crossword puzzles in-between whatever book she was reading at the moment, stopping to make sure I wasn't doing anything I wasn't supposed to be doing and more often than not being surprised I would be reading or drawing. One of our favorite memories was when I was over on a weekend sleepover and she asked if I wanted to go read with her. I hurried to the bookshelf, picked out The Tale of Benjamin Bunny from the hardcover slipcase, and started reading to her. Cue a huge smile bordering on teary from my grandma, and instead of interrupting or congratulating me she just smiled in silence as I continued to read out loud to her.

She liked packaging little lessons in her gifts. When my family went to her house in Hartwell, GA for Christmas, there were only two gifts under the Christmas tree for me, neither of which were wrapped, both with a bow and name cards written with "To: Andrew, Love: Grandma and Grandpa." The first was a Gameboy, the second was a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. I was immediately thrilled but before I could get too excited she bent over, got on her knees, and as she put her arm around me asked me, "Do you know about the difference between quality and quantity?" Not quite the purview of many 10-year olds, but I explained the difference in a hurry, and as I rushed through my words she had the same smile on her face then as she did when I was reading Benjamin Bunny to her.

My grandma adored animals. I've told some of you the story of Mystery, how I opened the door to my apartment in Normal and saw him sitting there, so I looked at him, he looked at me, and we decided this was a partnership that would work. I owe a lot of that pragmatic compassion to my grandma. She was in her car when she noticed a dog with its legs injured. After calming the dog down and putting it in her car, she stopped at McDonald's to get the dog a cheeseburger and got one for herself. The dog, eventually named Lucky, gobbled them both up immediately and from that point on was both deeply protective of and immensely spoiled by my grandma. When any of my cats follow me around for love it's because I learned how to forge a mutually respectful and adoring relationship with animals thanks to her.

(Side-note: in case anyone I've been close to turned an eyebrow up in quizzical amusement at my stuffed animal collection, you'll note most of them were dalmatians - my grandparent's favorite dog breed - and my grandma would buy me new figurines or plush dalmatians of various sizes every Christmas)

She died last week. Part of the reason it's taken me so long to write about it is I want other people to feel some of the same fierce pride, compassion, and intelligence she instilled in me - but I don't want anyone to be sorry.

So, if you got to this point, please don't be sorry. Just tell me about a pet bonding moment or fun life lesson you got from one of your extended family. Or, hell, if you want to make it more personal tell me about a moment I did the same for you.

How I feel is complicated right now. I'm not doing as badly as I expected, but my total lack of motivation right now is a sure sign I'm not doing as well as I think. So I sat down to write and work my way through both of these things.

It's a weird sort of painful relief. She lived a huge life in multiple states of our republic, was fiercely intelligent and compassionate, and earned her retirement with a wide array of jobs. She also had dementia in the last years of her life, and the complicated emotions I feel now that she's gone pale in comparison to watching what happened in that time.

In the end she was able to go peacefully, at home, with her daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and well taken care of pets in arms reach. And I've got lessons in my head and heart to spare, all thanks to her. I live with the love of those lessons every day of my life, and I'll miss her, but few people are more deserving of the rest she earned.

Posted by Andrew

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