GG would have been 82 today. My Mom and Dad took out Andy's boat and scattered her ashes off the coast of Newport Beach this morning. GG loved the beach. But even more, she loved Newport. It's where she called home for the past 74 years.
The comfort I feel from this "final resting place" of my Gramma is funny to me, because I know her soul is with the Lord in Heaven. She's not really resting at all. And what was scattered out there in the water this morning, was not really Gramma. All the things that made her up never made it inside that incinerator last April. Her laugh, her crooked smile, her sarcastic comments, her Sunny Select taste, her recipes, her fiestiness, her green thumb, her faith, and her LOVE - they're all here in my heart.
I've come to the conclusion that "final resting places" are really for the living. We like having a visual, tangible place to associate with her and her memory. But I'm pretty sure Gramma could care less where we scattered her ashes. Cause she's not there.
I'm pretty sure she spent today much like any other day. She never liked extravagant celebrations - especially ones for her! I'm pretty sure she had her breakfast of Quaker oatmeal with 10 SunMaid raisins (not 9, not 11) half a brown banana and black Folgers coffee out of a teacup. She read all the weekend grocery ads in every paper and planned her attack. Maybe she painted her nails (I never saw them without polish) while a baseball game played on TV in the background. Grandpa probably nodded in and out of sleep on the couch and she grumbled about that under her breath. If she changed the channel, it was to channel 7, where she listened to Regis & Kelly and all the girls on The View and participated in their conversations like they were right there in the room (only her comments were a little too pissy and opinionated to be on TV!) In the oven she probably had 2 cookie sheets full of sliced, day old, baguette toasting at 200 degrees. Even in Heaven, one can never have too many homemade breadcrumbs in the freezer ready to go. If she was really feeling celebratory, she might have taken herself to McDonald's for lunch where she ordered a Filet O Fish and an ice water. When the nice boy behind the counter asked her if she'd "like a Coke or French Fries with that?" she replied, "No Thank You. Just a waste of my money. French Fries...you'd think the whole world went and forgot how to bake a potato!" After lunch, on her walk home, I bet she drop kicked all the cats right out of Heaven when Jesus wasn't looking! When she got home, she sat down and wrote a letter to her son Sam. (She did this every day.) It was probably written on the back of one of her Birthday cards. I imagine, she looked forward to the Hallmark special that was on TV (even though she'd sleep through the second half.) Dinner was Liver and Onions that she made for herself, accompanied by a glass of blush wine that came out of a box. If anyone suggested a party, or a cake, a present, or even one chorus of "Happy Birthday," I know she turned up her nose at the idea and said "Now don't be asinine! (a word I've never heard anyone use but her) If you buy me anything I will be MAD. I don't need anything!" Then she turned and walked away...probably pouted a bit just to make sure that person knew she meant business! As she got ready for bed tonight, I know she pulled half a brown banana from her freezer and put it in a bowl. Then she counted out 10 SunMaid raisins and added them too. She covered the bowl with a piece of saran she'd already used, rinsed and reused 3 times today. Beside the bowl she set her canister of oats and her 1/2 cup measuring cup. Last thing, before she climbed into bed and began her talk with God, she composed a birthday "Want List" (just in case people ignored her no gift order like we always did) and this is what it said:
(This is real. In her own writing. Our large family exchanges names at Christmas - so that we all gift to one person. A few years back we decided to leave Gramma and the little kids out of the exchange. Under 10 and Over 80 got gifts from everyone....but had to gift no one! She was so MAD at that decision. She came up with this list and informed us all, if we bought her anything more extravagant than the items above, she would promptly return it. True to form, she wrote her "Want List" on the back of a recycled Christmas card. You can tell, from this list, what a rockin' GG she was!)
This is the conversation I imagine Gramma had tonight with God, at the end of her First Birthday in Heaven.
GG: "Hello Lord." God: "Hey Nancy! Happy Birthday!" GG: "Why Thank You." God: "Was it a good one? Did you enjoy yourself today?" GG: "Yes. A good one. But nothing special. Just like any other day." God: "Did you see what was going on down there? Off the coast?" GG: "Yes. Yes I did. They scattered my ashes." God: "What do you think about that?" GG: "Oh! Well...I think it's nice. I think it's a good spot. Kinda like my eternal Ruby's lunch date at the end of the Pier." God: "What? Your lunch date?" GG: "Oh, just a little joke between me and my saint of a son-in-law. He would get a kick out of that!" God: "Your son-in-law is a saint?" GG: "Well...not formally. Not yet anyway. But to me, he's always walked on water." God: "I see. Well then, do you think I should tell them? Fill them in on the truth?" GG: "What? You mean tell my family that I'm not really spending eternity in Newport Bay?" God: "Yes. I can do that if you want me to." GG: "Oh no! Let's not. Let's let them have both." God: "You mean both as in, You in Heaven and You in Newport?" GG: "Yes. It's what feels right to them, brings them comfort and makes them smile. And I want that for them." God: "How did I know this would be your answer?" GG: "Well, you're God...that's how you knew, of course. Don't be asinine." God: "What I mean to say is, you've always walked the path I've laid before you with such Grace and ease, Nancy. It pleases me to see you continue to be the Eternal Matriarch, even in death." GG: "You mean LIFE, Lord. Not death. I didn't die. I was born again." God: "Sweet child. Of course I know you didn't die. It was just a figure of speech." GG: "Good! You had me nervous as a pregnant nun for a minute. We're all in trouble if I know more about the way, the truth, and the life than you!" God: "Pregnant Nuns, Nancy? Now was that really necessary?" GG: "You know I don't bother with anything UNnecessary, Lord. By the way, what's the verdict on Michael?" God: "Why do you ask?" GG: "Well - every year I told my family Michael Jackson and I shared the same birthday! Imagine my surprise when we both passed this year. I was wondering if I'd get to meet him. I made cupcakes." God: "Well Nancy, the jury's still out on Michael. He and Gabriel are hashing it out as we speak. Seems he has a lot to answer for before coming my way. But I'd LOVE a cupcake!" GG: "By all means, enjoy. I've now got 2 dozen to spare. But they turned out flat. I can't figure out why." God: "It's the altitude. Did you use the high altitude instructions? You have to up here. GG: "What do you take me for?! Of course I used the high altitude instructions. Call Betty. I want her to come over and explain this!" God: "Crocker? She's busy tonight. She and Hines went and saw that new movie. Childs got them some great tix. I don't want to interrupt. They were so excited. GG: Hrumphhhhhh...... God: (Takes a bite of cupcake) Oh Nancy! Seriously? DEVIL'S FOOD?! Of course Devil's Food wont rise in Heaven. Everybody knows that!"
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GG. It was fun remembering and imagining "A Day in the (After)Life" of you. Remember your Sweet Peas?! Every year yours would grow like weeds. Towering tall, and smelling so fragrant. When you moved and had no room to grow them anymore, you always came over and helped take care of mine. Last spring mine were taller than the fence! You'd tell me - "Cut them, cut them! The more you cut, the more they'll flower!" I didn't believe you. I hated to cut them. But you were right. I had more bouquets than I had vases. Than I had glasses!
This spring, my Sweet Peas were SO pathetic looking. They didn't even grow as high as the trellis. My measly 4 foot trellis! And I was ready to cut. I promise I was ready to cut. But after I cut my first "bouquet" - if you can even call it that, it was only about 15 stems....THAT WAS IT! No more flowers all season.
I think the Sweet Peas miss you. Sad, sad Sweet Peas.