My grandmother died Saturday night. She was a HUGE part of my life. She was the only person that ever sent me mail, I always had to have stamps and stationery on hand just for responding to her letters. She would mail me any little clipping or picture that made me think of her, and in college when I was on my own for the first time I loved getting weird little things in my mailbox. When I was in college she would call and leave messages and my roommates would never be able to understand what she said, they'd just say "We think somebody called for you." When she called the house and Matt answered the phone she would just say "Where is she?" They had whole conversations about me and how grumpy I get and whenever I would be visiting her for too long she would send me home to Matt "so he doesn't divorce you."
When I was little I was jealous of all the other kids who had babysitters because she was my only babysitter for my entire childhood. I didn't realize how good I had it. We would walk to the park and she would hang out with all the moms while I played. Every weekend my parents would drop me off at her house and she would feed me totally unhealthy Hungarian food on Saturday night and we would watch old musicals on PBS and play card games. Then I would take a bath in her bathtub and sleep in her sparest spare room. In the morning I would go wake her up and she would make me eggs and bacon while I watched old Adam West Batman reruns on TV. Then we would go work in her yard all day. I mowed her lawn (the way it was supposed to be done) and planted and dug things up under her eagle-eyed supervision. I was never allowed to touch the azaleas. The fuchsias looked like little ballerinas and the camellias were the size of a baseball. The jade plants were bigger than I was. I didn't know anyone else with a garden like hers.
In the last couple of years we tried to organize ourselves so everybody talked to her at least twice a week. She loved it. Whenever you called her she gave you the latest gossip on everybody else. She got all the news first and she would make sure everybody knew whether you were going to a concert this weekend or just planting a shrub. She was 104. When she moved into the nursing home last year my dad got her a cell phone. It was her lifeline. She racked up a HUGE phone bill. She had people calling her from Hungary, from the East Coast, from all over the place. And she called us all the time. In the last three months of me living here, she was never without that phone. In the hospital when she was too tired to talk I would tuck her in with her phone by her pillow and my sisters would call her and talk at her just so she could hear their voices.
Now I live in her house. I had to rearrange all the furniture and repaint the entire place so it wouldn't be weird. And I can prune the azaleas. But I'd rather have her here. The nursing home is two blocks away and it is so strange not having to stop there on my way home any more.