Memories of Grandpa

Today is the 21st anniversary of my grandpa’s death.  Everyone in the family had to have some sort of collection: grandma’s clowns, mom’s mice.  Grandpa’s collection was model trains.  As a child I watched trains go by while I was at recess, and would count the cars as they flew past, disappointed when the bell would ring before all the cars could be counted.  We still have some of grandpa’s trains on a shelf that hangs above our garage.

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I absolutely adored my grandpa, so it pains me that the few clear memories I have of him are of negative events.  They were so out of the ordinary that they were seared into my mind.  One positive memory that I do still have is of the two of us playing school – me as the teacher and him as the student.  I would grade his homework and he would intentionally get some questions wrong so that I actually had to know the answers in order to check his.  The school was in the entryway to our house, the one that he designed and we built as a family.  His huge desk was my teacher’s desk, and we had an orange plaid armchair that he sat in to do his homework.

When I was young, my mother and grandmother both worked nights, so it was grandpa who woke me up for school with a special song, draped my clothes over an electric heater to get them warm, and fixed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every morning for breakfast. I have never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich since he died. I don’t eat jelly at all, and rarely eat peanut butter.

Grandpa’s death was extremely hard on me. I was closer to him than anyone else in the world, and I felt completely lost and alone after he died. Last night as I was pondering what to post today I found this story called The Train on Facebook. It was too perfect to not share.

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Memories of Grandma

In therapy last week, Sadie and I discussed ways I could honor my grandparents on the anniversaries of their deaths, which both occur in February, and which tend to send me spiraling every year.  I agreed that I would take a picture that each of them would like, and write blog posts to go with the pictures.  I took the pictures on an outing a few days ago, but yesterday was the 9th anniversary of grandma’s death and I couldn’t bear to write the post.  I was feeling too bad, and thinking about what I would write kept bringing up much less pleasant memories.  Today I think I can handle it.

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There is no Chick-Fil-A in my local area, and it’s rare that I go to one because we usually do our city shopping on Sundays when the restaurant is closed.  I’ve been going lately as it’s the closest restaurant to my Monday night NAMI Peer-to-Peer class.  Eating there reminds me of grandma.  I don’t actually remember this happening, but I remember the retelling over the years.

When I was a small child and we ate at Chick-Fil-A, grandma would share her meal with me.  She thought anything on the menu would be too much for me, and since she wasn’t a big eater it made sense to share.  That is, until one day she realized that I was eating more and more of the sandwich and not leaving anything for her to eat.

The older I got, the less we were able to share food, and not just because I ate too much.  Our tastes were wildly different.  Grandma liked the down-home fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, vegetables cooked in bacon grease.  I prefer foreign cuisine, especially Mexican and Asian.  Very little about my current diet resembles what she raised me on – the closest I’ve come lately is the hamburger with mustard and dill pickles that I ate last night, and I’d much rather have a veggie burger.

After our food preferences diverged, we were still able to share many things.  TV shows, such as Crossing Jordan and 24.  Books, such as Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series.  Jigsaw puzzles, where  one of us started on one side and one on the other and we worked toward the middle.

Most importantly though, we shared conversation.  I was raised by my maternal grandparents, and grandma was raised by her maternal grandparents.  I resented her as a child, not wanting her to tell me what to do when I had my real mother in my life, but I think she understood.  My perspective changed as an adult, when she became the person I turned to for guidance.

Grandma never thought much of psychology, but I believe if she were still here with me she would try her best to understand what I’m going through.  It breaks my heart that I can’t find out if that’s true.