“Mom, I probably won’t cry because I just don’t…you know…crack under pressure,” said The Bug.
“Well Bug, it’s OK if you do. This isn’t pressure. This is grief. So you can cry if you feel the need to but it’s also OK if you don’t.”
At Grandma’s rosary he kept his head down in my lap because he said he felt sick. Buddy just cried into my shoulder.
When Grandma died, my aunt asked if I would like to say something at her funeral. I had thought about what I would say for a little over a year. I told her I would like to but did not know if I’d be able to.
“Could I just play it by ear?”
The eulogy’s were to be said at her rosary. When I arrived I was told that my mom and my uncle would be saying something then it would be opened up to anyone else who might want to. My cousin planned to say a few words at that time.
“So, if you are up for it, you can go after her,” my aunt instructed.
I still wasn’t sure if I would do it. I got up at 3 a.m. that morning and wrote up what I would say. I spent the whole 6 hour car ride down working up the courage. My mother and my uncle did a beautiful job. Then it was opened up to the rest of us. My cousin was eloquent and poised. Then the hostess got up and told us all thank you for coming and it was over.
During the closing statements of the rosary my aunt kept looking at me questioningly. A part of me was ready to jump up, wave my hand in the air and say, “Wait! I have something to say.” But I did not want to make a scene and I just couldn’t get up. It happened so fast. My cousin spoke and then they closed it. Just like that.
I was crushed. All of the planning and emotional build up was for nothing. Just crushed.
“Would you like to read it to me?” my mom asked. But I didn’t feel I could do that. “You can e-mail it to me later if you want.” I agreed to that.
That night I laid wrapped in Man’s arms and I sobbed, my heart felt like it was being wrung out.
“I have been jipped! That’s what this is! I was jipped out of saying my piece and I was jipped…robbed…out of my visit with her! I should’ve stood up and said I had something to say. I should’ve come to visit earlier. They weren’t meant to be. It just wasn’t meant to happen. Not any of it.”
That night I had a very vivid dream. I was laying in my bed and there was a face right up close to mine. It was not fleshy. It was a spirit. It didn’t look like my Grandma but I knew that it was her. She blew into my face and I involuntarily sucked in her breath. I felt her breath pass through my lips and felt my lungs expand. It was so lucid that I thought to myself, I must be snoring. When I open my eyes I bet Man’s face will be right up in mine and either he is snoring or I am. I opened my eyes. Man was on the far end of the bed with his back to me.
We went to the church early because Buddy and Bug were asked to escort the sacraments for communion with our cousin. Bug again told me he was sick. We walked the kids through their duties and then my mom approached me.
“How would you feel about doing your eulogy today?” she asked.
“Well, what do you mean? I thought they were only being done at the rosary.”
“That’s what we were told as well but Father Jim just said that he thought it would be nice to have someone say a eulogy. I told him that I thought you would like to do that. How do you feel about that?”
“Oh my gosh. Well, yeah! I think it’s still in my purse.”
Holy smokes. I couldn’t believe how that worked out. Maybe it was not meant to be done the previous night so it could be done that morning. Maybe it’s like my aunt said and was a gift from my Grandma. I was back to building up the nerve and reviewing my words. After communion I read my testimony of my Grandma. I don’t know if my words brought anyone else comfort but I immediately felt lighter. It was such a blessing.
The rest of the time with my family was so good. I did not want to leave my Grandma’s family and home We went through her cedar chest together. Apparently my Grandma used to do fiesta dancing and still had her dress in the chest. I had no idea she did this! My mother gave me her dance dress. It’s red and has gold decorations on it. It’s the kind of skirt that opens like a fan when you lift the hems on your left and right. Sunday afternoon we loaded up and headed home. Bug felt sick the whole way home.
Monday night I went to a basketball game with my friends. My Grandma loved basketball so I felt she would approve. (Granted, she loved college basketball. There is a difference.) My friends are all kinds of fun and soon had me laughing at their antics. It was Hispanic Heritage Night and so during half time fiesta dancers took to the court. They were lovely but they also broke my heart. What else did I not know about her? I went to the bathroom and had a good cry. Back in my seat I started to fume. I just wanted to tell everyone, “Part of my heart has left this earth!”
The game ended and we started to leave and for whatever reason I just lost it. I sobbed the loud sobs and cried the ugly cry. Oh yeah, I did. I covered my face with my hands and walked up to a wall. I cried into the wall like a child crying in the corner. Then I’d get it together and walk on, then fall apart and cry up against the wall again. This was repeated I don’t know how many times. My poor friends wanted to go home. It was midnight. Finally, Caren handed all of her stuff to one of our companions, squatted in front of me presenting her back.
“What?” I asked through sobs.
“Hop on! Let’s go! I’ll carry you out of here.”
So I did. I hopped onto her back and cried into Caren’s shoulder and eventually the sobbing turned to laughing. This had to be the most ridiculous scene to ever exit the Pepsi Center. I got down and walked.
Tuesday I got a call from school from Bug’s teacher.
“I think Mr. I Don’t Crack Under Pressure has just cracked.”
I picked The Bug up from school.
“He kept saying he felt sick and I asked him, ‘are you sick or do you have icky feelings that you don’t know what to do with?’ He said it was icky feelings and he started to cry. I think he needs to sit in mom’s lap today,” his wonderful and bestest-teacher-ever said.
On the drive home Bug said that his heart had been bawling since Friday. He said his heart was sad.
“You’re heart sick,” I told him.
“What’s a heart doctor called?”
“A cardiologist but he only fixes diseases in the heart. It’s not the organ that is sick but the spirit.”
“If my body does happy things then my heart will feel happy. What should we do?”
I knew exactly what we should do.
Whenever I was sad my Grandma would suggest making natillas. She made the best natillas in the world! Natillas is a pudding or custard made with milk, eggs and sugar. I loved it best warm! We pulled out the recipe when we got home. I explained to Bug that Grandma used to make it and that she always said it was good Comfort Food.
After reviewing the ingredients he grabbed his apron and set to work. I text my family and told them what Bug and I were up to. They wanted pictures. So I snapped pics while Bug worked. It lifted both of our spirits! Half way through he took a plastic spoon to have a taste.
“This is AWESOME!” he raved. “I’m so going to put this in my restaurant.” Then his face flushed with emotion and he said, “I’m going to put on the menu that my Grandma used to make this.”
I told him it was a wonderful idea and I held him and cried awhile. Every time I cry the kids look at me like I have a third eye.
“I’m sorry I keep crying,” I told him. “It’s just that I am very sad. It’s OK for you to cry too.”
We finished the natillas and Bug sprinkled cinnamon on top for the final touch. I took a picture of the finished product.
“You have to send that picture to Grandma!” Bug said and then his face flushed again as he caught himself. “Are there computers in Heaven that we can send a picture to her on?”
“No Bug. But she can see everything we do now. She will never miss a thing!”
We ate our pudding while it was still warm. He did well for his first attempt. Then we took a walk. Bug noticed the way the dirt road would catch the sun.
“The gravel is sparkly!” He noticed that as we walked up to it the sparkle would go away. He noticed everything. We spent our walk trying to catch up to the sparkles.
Today I did not want to get out of bed. I just wanted to stay in my pajamas, under the covers. I got up and got the kids off to school. Then I sat at the computer. I want to tell every stranger I see that my Grandma is gone but I couldn’t write about it. I couldn’t put it in order and there is a lot that I want to keep for myself. But writing is always my therapy. Still I couldn’t write. I made a list of what I needed to do. I need to rehearse for my up coming audition but I don’t want to sing. I need to paint a piece for the school auction but I don’t want to paint. I need to do laundry for our trip but I never want to do laundry. We need groceries. I sat for a long time and finally felt like I could do that.
At the grocery store I bought peanut butter. I couldn’t think of what else we needed and then I bought myself some flowers. I picked out yellow daisies to brighten my kitchen. I spied some callo lilies. They were deep purple, almost black. They would look amazing in the Nambe vase my Grandma gave to me as a wedding gift. They were beautiful and dark and matched my mood so I bought them too.
I called a friend to wish her a happy birthday. While her phone rang I told myself to sound cheery.
Don’t leave a blue laden birthday wish.
I recalled a time when I was in the hospital with pneumonia. Grandma was on a trip and my mother was concerned that she would have no fun on her trip if she was worried about me. I was in a pretty bad way. I had an oxygen mask and talking was very laborious. Still, we dialed Grandma. I got her voicemail. I sucked in some oxygen and then in a cheery tone said, “Hey Grandma! Just calling to wish you a happy trip. Love you!” Then I immediately put the oxygen back on and took another long drag.
“Oh you are good!” The nurse said.
My friends voicemail beeped me back out of the memory.
“Hey Gran..!” I nearly called her Grandma. “Hey. Happy birthday. Sorry I forgot.” I hung up and bawled some more.
I sat in my car in my driveway for awhile and decided to call Grandma to hear her voicemail message again. My aunt answered and we talked and cried for about 20 min. Then she told me to call back. She wouldn’t answer this time. I called and heard the familiar message. There was a beep.
“I love you.”