It's been 7 years today since I lost my hero. My Grandma Ryan had cancer several times from the time that I was in kindergarten or preschool up until she passed away the April of my fourth grade year. I can't believe that it's been that long already. I think the even worse part is that I've actually gotten used to her being gone. Well, not used to, exactly. That will never happen. I've just adjusted more. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her, but I no longer am completely bitter and angry when I think about her not being around anymore, like I was for a long time.
My Grandma was the greatest. I know that all grandkids are supposed to say that about their grandparents, but I wasn't the only one who thought that she rocked. Everyone did. She had one of those contagiously congenial personalities. She was always smiling and when you were around her, you couldn't help but do the same. She was incredibly devoted, especially to her family and to God. Even if the church was too cold, according to her. For that, she just had her own seat in the church, where no one else sat because of the electrical outlet right in front of her. Her electric blanket was plugged in there. Our house was too cold, also. The first thing that she would do after walking in the door would be to step on the heat rung next to the stairs, because she was freezing.
When I was 3 or 4, she and Aunt Julie took me to Florida (Disney World) for a whole week. As if that whole trip wasn't enough, because I'm sure that I was no angel, she took the millions of pictures she had taken over the week, put them in chronological order, and written captions in the margins for me. And then, once again, when I was 8, she and Grandpa took me to Florida, this time to my Aunt Doris' (I'm not sure how she's related to us.) and Aunt Patty's (Grandma's sister) houses in Bradenton. Aunt Doris had a canal in her backyard, and manatees used to swim up in it. She also had a huge pool, which me and Grandma swam in.
The most vivid memories I have of her come from that trip. I remember walking along the beach, picking up seashells, and talking. I remember like it was yesterday, talking to her, telling her how glad I was that she wasn't sick anymore, because that meant that she was going to live for a long time and not lose her hair. I told her that Jesus had healed her so that we could do fun stuff together forever. I remember her telling me that the cancer could always come back, but I shook it off because I was 8, and all I knew was that once you were better, you were better. Grandma wasn't going to be sick anymore, and I wanted more seashells. So that's as far as it went. And she didn't push it anymore.
I was with Grandma when I found out Michael had been born. She was the one who picked me up from school. She was the one who got the phone call from Dad and told me. Now that I think of it, she picked me up at school for most of those significant things. When Mom was in her huge accident when I was in first grade, Grandma picked me up and took me to Friendly's. When I had an accident (in the middle of class) in second grade, Grandma picked me up and took me home.
Most weekends were spent with my grandparents. This was especially great around the holidays, when peppermint stick ice cream was on sale. She loved that stuff and to this day it's still my favorite. I remember the night that she stayed up with me, through the entire alphabet, just so that I could see the US Olympic Team come onto the screen, just because I had done a project on Dominique Moceneau earlier that year and was obsessed with gymnastics.
As I've said before, the whole end-of-the-world thing scares me to death. I don't like to think about it, even though I know in the back of my mind it's going to be great and wonderful. I just don't like to think about things ending. For me though, if there's anything good for me to think about now having to do with the state that the world is in today, it's that I'm not going to have to wait an incredibly long time to walk on the beach with Grandma again, eating peppermint ice cream, and talking about the Olympics.