Time To Go Home Now

My grandma passed away Friday night. The news didn’t come as a surprise to me…she was 84. In fact, she would’ve been 85 in a couple weeks and I can’t help but wonder if she just decided she didn’t want to be that old. She died in her sleep; quietly. No drama; no fanfare. Just done. I think that’s the way I’d like to go if I have a choice. One day I’ll just decide I’ve learned all I can from this life. I’ve done what I could to make the world a better place and prepared those I’m leaving behind to go on without me. Then, quietly, peaceful move on to the next phase of this journey. I like the way that sounds.

I’ve definitely been blessed in the grandparent department. Growing up I had three sets of grandparents and a great-grandma living within a mile of our house. My mom’s parents divorced when she was young and both remarried and stayed in the same small town. My dad’s parents lived on the property next door to us since I was five. My other (yes other) great-grandma lived further away, but we still saw her and my great-grandpa from time to time.

When I got married I was blessed with another set of grandparents. I am grateful they always treated me like their own granddaughter. A lot of people aren’t so lucky. Both of my great-grandmas were still living when Mitch was born. And I am fortunate to have two five-generation pictures from when he was about a year old. How cool is that?

It’s funny…as a kid it never seemed strange I had so many grandparents. I thought that’s the way it was for everyone. Obviously I have a lot of grandparent memories from my childhood as well. But my memories of my grandma who just passed are fuzzy. In looking back I realize I didn’t really know her all that well. As a kid, I guess it didn’t occur to me. She was my grandma…what more was there to know?

Growing up my grandparents owned the café in the small town where we lived. We spent a lot of time there as kids. Helping grandpa wash glasses behind the bar or riding with him and my uncles in his old panel truck to the dump. My favorite part was drinking the occasional milkshake that got made by mistake. When I think back, I don’t have as many specific memories about my grandma as I do of my grandpa. She was the cook and the kitchen was small. We weren’t allowed in there much.

After they sold the restaurant we would stop by their house to visit. Though I don’t remember my grandma being mean in any way; I also don’t know if she really wanted us around. Granted…four little kids can be a handful. But it seemed like it wouldn’t be long before she told us it was “time to go home now”. Funny I remember that exact phrase. I do remember every year we would stop by on our way to the Puyallup Fair and she would give us each money to buy something. But I definitely have more vivid memories of my grandpa who smoked cigars and collected stamps and coins. I often sat in the chair next to his desk to see what he was doing.

As an adult I have to wonder if my grandma was really happy with her life. She always had a smile on her face and she was loved by many. But I think sometimes that smile was a cover for something…sadness maybe. Though my guess is she would never admit that. And as I think about her life, I’m contemplating my own. If I should live to be her age, I have about forty more years on this earth. Pondering death always has me rethink life. Was she happy with the life she lived? Will I be?

Thinking about death also reminds me I have a choice in how I live.  And I sometimes feel like I need to make big changes when I contemplate the end. Kick more ass, make a bigger difference, care less what people think, tell the truth, love with abandon. The truth is those are all worthy pursuits and things I strive for. But I’m also working on being kinder to myself, more loving and accepting of myself. I don’t want to use those lofty goals as a way to beat myself up for not reaching them every day.

I think the lyrics of this song by John Michael Montgomery say it beautifully:

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

I really believe that’s the way life is. You never get it down perfectly…you learn as you go. So grandma, wherever you are, I hope you learned all you came here to learn; that you were happy with your life and you know you were loved. It’s time to go home now.

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