It has been over a year since you have passed away. I have not written about how I feel now that you are gone. It is not because I have nothing to say about it, but rather I am unsure where to begin. Grandma, you have always been there for me, even when I refused to talk to you or Grandpa, even though I really wanted to talk to you. I needed time to process, and I was too afraid you would pressure me into talking to my Dad which I was not ready to do at the time.
I never got the chance to tell you why I literally vanished out of your life for a few years. I was scared, confused, and didn't know what to believe. I also didn't see a reason to bring it up since it would do nothing but cause pain. I up and left because I couldn't take it anymore.
I was tired of being told where to go and with whom I had to spend my time with. I was a confused teenager, and I was trying to figure out who I was. Maybe I should have opted to stay with you and Grandpa more often.
I quickly forgot, somehow, the security I felt going to your house. Not that I wasn't safe with Mama or Daddy, but I had too much stuff to sort out, and I had no clue how to do it. I could have also gone to spend time with my sister, and my brother moved out to live with his dad when I was seven, but I think I felt I had to handle how I felt on my own. I see now I didn't have to, but it did make me into the person I am today. I am proud of who I am today. My ignorant teenage self ignored you and Grandpa and even Daddy when in reality I should have been more open about how I was feeling. I am glad you came to my graduation, even though I saw you and chose to walk away. I can only imagine the pain I put you through, and for that, I am truly sorry.
But this is not about why I was distant for those few years, but rather it is a tribute of how much you mean to me. I miss you so much, and it is hard to believe you are no longer here on earth with us anymore. I know it was your time to go, and you were in so much pain from the cancer. I am glad you are no longer in pain, but it doesn't take away the pain I feel when I want to pick up the phone and talk to you.
I am so thankful for the time I could spend with you. I remember one day, when I was eight-years-old, I was visiting you and Grandpa while on break from school. You came home and sat on the couch with me. I think you thought I was asleep because once you placed my head in your lap and gently rubbed my back, you began to tell Grandpa what the doctor told you.
I tried so hard to pretend I was asleep as you told Grandpa it had been confirmed that you have cancer. I could only old the tears back so long before I just let it loose. You were dying. That is what I thought. I never knew anyone who had cancer and survived. I prayed to God; please let me have more time with Grandma. I am not ready for her to die.
You got better, and you were in remission for eighteen years before the cancer came back. I had eighteen more years with you before the cancer took you from this world.
I remember spending the entire summer with you and even spring breaks. I loved going on vacations with you and Grandpa. I was able to have fun and not worry about anything. One of my favorite things to do on vacation was swimming. I would have swum all day long if you let me. Oh, and always going to some store (it never mattered where) and getting me another journal to write in. You always believed in my writing.
One year for Christmas, I was in Eighth Grade, you and Grandpa got me a book Just Jane by William Lavender and had him sign it. He was my penpal for about a year at that time, and you thought it would be a great surprise to do that for me. You got his address from I am guessing Daddy and wrote to him and asked if he would mind doing that for me. I was so excited, and I immediately started to reread that book again. You also, throughout the years, bought me The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and before too long I had the entire series. My reading was just as important to you as my writing. We would go to Books-A-Million, and you would let me pick out a few books each time we went there. Thank you.
Thinking about this now, I realize I haven't read as much or as often as I know I should. I know since I am a writer, it is important to read. I promise I will get into the habit of reading more often. That is a great tool for writers to be able to grow. I have the kindle that Johnny gave me, and I try to bring it with me to work, but I forget sometimes.
I am glad I finally decided to call you and talk to you. It was when I was going into the Navy. I wanted you and Grandpa to drive me to Beaufort from Ellijay, Ga. I was unsure of how to talk to you. I was afraid of the years that had passed, and I caused too much damage to be able to fix it. My anxiety quickly faded when I heard you answer the phone like no time has passed at all saying, "Hey baby girl!"I apologized for not calling sooner, but it was awkward at first since I felt like I had to justify why I did what I did. The more we talked, the more comfortable I began. Before I knew it, I called you more and more, and my fears began to fade away.
I think about you all the time, especially when I am on my way to Food Lion. I used to call you when I was either on my way to get food or on my way back home. I tried my best to call you every day. Life got busy time to time, but I hope you knew how much I loved you. It seems stupid to say, but I sometimes wonder if I focused too much on venting to you, and not enough time asking you how you were. I know you loved me so much, but I hope I wasn't selfish when I would call you.
I remember the last time you were able to visit. I am sorry I didn't visit you often. I should have made trips to see you, but instead, I made you come to where I was. Before you had to go back, you looked at me with tears in your eyes and said, "Andrea, I'm scared." I held you tight as I let you cry on my shoulder. I knew at that moment, you realized the cancer was back, and I believe you knew ultimately it would kill you. I held you tightly, and I didn't want to let you go.
A month later, I tried calling you, and Daddy answered the phone and told me you weren't feeling good. I heard you say, "Tell my baby girl I love her." I told Daddy to tell you, "I love you Grandma, I will call you tomorrow." Tomorrow came and when I called, Beth answered, and you were having another bad day. I couldn't help but think was this the end? I should have gotten in my car then and drove to you, but I guess part of me was scared. I decided to give it another day and go from there. I knew I should have gotten in the car and went to see you. I should have comforted you in your final days on earth. The way you have always been there for me. It was the least I could do.
February 14th, Valentine's day was changed forever. We had a chili cookoff at the church that Saturday, so I decided to go to Walmart to get items we needed for the chili and soup we were going to make. My phone rang, it was Daddy. I answered the phone."Grandma is heading to the hospital." I heard the rest of the conversation at the time, but that statement kept going around in the back of my head."When I know, more I will call you." I got off the phone with Daddy and decided to still go to Walmart. I needed something to distract me from the worry I had. I want Grandma to be alright.
I got a cart and put Johnathon in the seat and began to grab the items we needed from Walmart. I kept looking at my phone hoping it would ring, but it didn't. I was almost done with the shopping trip. I needed to grab Johnathon a pair of shoes since he outgrew his other ones, and one other ingredient for the chili Johnny wanted to try to make. I was in the spices isle, when I heard my phone make a noise. I missed a phone call from my sister. I called her back.
When she answered, I could hear the sadness in her voice and I knew it wasn't good. "Did you call Daddy? He tried to call you, but you phone went right to voicemail." I began to tear up as I said, "No." "She didn't make it. I am so sorry." I ease myself down to the floor, using the buggy as an aid and I began to cry. After a few minutes, I think, I got up and grabbed Johnathon and his shoes, and left the buggy there. I realize now I could have grabbed the cart and bought the items I placed in there, but I just wanted to get out of Walmart. Johnathon needed shoes, or I would have left those there too. I called Johnny as I made my way to the checkout line.
When I got to the garden center checkout, the cashier asked, "Are you okay?" All I could say was, "No."
I still listen to your voicemails I have on my phone. I have three from you, and I have the voicemail my sister left me telling me to call her or Daddy as soon as possible. Johnny and I sang your favorite song, "Because He Lives," at your funeral as I promised you we would. I would give anything to hear your voice one last time, but at the same time, I know that isn't possible. I am glad you are away from pain and you are no longer suffering. Grandma, I wrote this for you because I needed to get these words out. I needed to demonstrate the love I have for you, and I really do hope you know how much I love and miss you.