To My Grandma Who Is No Longer With Me On Her Birthday

To My Grandma Who Is No Longer With Me On Her Birthday

9 years later and I am still missing you
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If a little girl is lucky they have a playmate: someone to kneel down and enter their world of pretending. Someone to acknowledge their fantasy worlds of princesses and dolls and unadulterated happiness. I was in the elite class; the luckiest of the lucky.

My grandmother was my best friend. She would kneel down and pick-up a doll and the two of us would sit on her yellow carpet and laugh and talk and simply be for what felt like the best hours of my life.

When I was younger it was dolls, when I got older it was coloring and even older Harry Potter. Being the high-quality wizard that I am, naturally, I dubbed myself Hermionie. Never one to stop the fun, my grandma adopted the role of Harry Potter and allowed me to draw a lightning scar on the aged skin of her forehead. We glued sequins onto popsicle sticks and cast Patronus charms from sundown to sunrise.

Another one of our favorite activities was taking walks. No matter if the visit was at my house or hers, we had a route.

If we were in her neighborhood we would walk to the duck pond and throw pieces of torn up bread into the water to provide the little bird's sustenance. If we were at my house we would walk down the block to the cul de sac and then circle back.

Each walk was, of course, accompanied by my grandmother's signature chocolate chip cookies. We would walk and eat and laugh and smile and talk. And even as young as 10, I remember how thankful I was to have someone who would chat so openly with me.

Someone who would be there for me when I turned the elderly ages of 13, 15, even 18, and give me advice when I was in more desperate need.

My grandma, full of smiles and laughs and oh so willing to enter into my world of make-believe, cloaked herself in all black. This was something that always brought me a bit of confusion: why did my grandma, the happiest person I knew, choose to represent herself with the color most commonly associated with sadness.

Later, I learned, it was because despite the facade that she put on for me, my grandmother's life was anything but happy.

Sick. It was a word that haunted her for as long as I had known her. She pretended to be carefree, but she wasn't. She laughed with me, but could never fully enjoy. And she loved entering my fantasy worlds, likely because she needed to escape from reality even more than I did.

She was sick, and despite the fact that she fought off the disease three times before, the fourth time cancer stole her life right from under her.

I was 10 and lost my best friend.

First, it was confusion, then anger, then sadness. But finally, it came to acceptance. Acceptance that she wouldn't be there for the most critical years when I would need her the most.

She would never see me graduate middle school, nor high school, nor go to prom, nor be accepted to college. She was not there waiting at the door with her sneakers tied and her signature cookie the first time my heart got broke, like my 10 year old self had expected.

And now, this past Wednesday she would have been 75. And I am 19. The last time I saw her she was 66, myself 10. And so much is the same, yet so much has changed.

And while she isn't here to celebrate, I hope that she is proud to watch us as we grow. And I hope that the next time that I see her, wherever and however that may be, she will be waiting with a cookie, her sneakers tied, and a walking route all planned out for us.

Cover Image Credit: No Greater Joy Ministries

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Dear Mom, From Your Daughter In College

Here are all the things our phone calls aren't long enough to say.
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Dear Mom,

Do you remember when I was three and we would play together? It was the age of princesses and carpet that was actually lava, and you were the prettiest woman in the whole wide world. Do you remember when I was in high school and the world seemed too big and scary? You would know exactly when to take me on a mother-daughter date and have me laughing about anything and everything, and you were the smartest woman in the whole wide world. Now, I'm buried in homework and deadlines hours away from you and we don't get to talk as much you want, but you're still the prettiest, smartest woman in the whole wide world.

I'm sorry that I don't call you as much as I should, and you know a lot of what goes on in my world via posts and pictures. Our schedules just seem to never line up so we can have the three-hour conversations about everything like I want to. I know we don't agree on absolutely everything, but I cherish every piece of advice you give me, even though it probably seems like I'm hardly listening. I know that sometimes we get on each other's nerves, but thank you for putting up with me for all of these years. Thank you for listening to me cry, complain, question things and go on and on about how everything in college is. I know I don't come home as much as I used to, but I think about you all the time. After all, you're my first friend, and therefore, my best friend.

Thank you for celebrating my successes with me, and not downing me too hard for my failures. Thank you for knowing what mistakes I shouldn't make, but letting me make them anyway because you want me to live my life and be my own person. Thank you for knowing when to ask about the boy I've been talking about, and when to stop without any questions. Thank you for letting me be my crazy, weird, sometimes know-it-all self.

Thank you for sitting back and watching me spread my wings and fly. There is no way I could have known how to grow into the woman I am today if I hadn't watched you while I was growing up so I would know what kind of person I should aspire to be. Thank you for being the first (and the best) role model I ever had. You continue to inspire and amaze me every day with all that you do, and all that you are.

I don't know how I got so lucky to have a person in my life like you, but I thank the Lord every night for blessing me with the smartest, prettiest person to be my best friend, my role model, my confidant, my person and most importantly, my mother.

Love,

Your daughter

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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There Will Never Be A Home Like Your Grandparents' House

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go.

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I didn't realize how essential families were to the holidays until I spent the holidays missing someone who wasn't there.

My grandpaMadelyn Neal

On Christmas Day, I went to my grandmother's home in small-town Kentucky to celebrate. I was particularly worried about how empty the house would feel without my grandfather. I couldn't help but think of what I would have gotten him for Christmas, his favorite catch-phrases that I would have heard non-stop, and even what he would have ordered at Domino's (yes, our traditional Christmas meal is takeout).

But despite it all, I had a nice Christmas, and it seemed as though maybe he wasn't as far away as he previously seemed.

Wedding photosMadelyn Neal

In the short weeks after he passed, I kept waiting to "feel his presence" or a sign from him, as everyone always says you will no doubt feel. That said, I realized that it was the things he left behind that really helped me to feel closer to him.

When we sat down to dinner, with his customary seat left open for him, it seemed to everyone at the table that for a moment, he was there with us.

When we made a fire in his fireplace and began to listen to the crackle, I could almost hear the typical accompanying snoring coming from his corner of the couch.

His go-to fishing pole on the deck of his pond seemed as if it was just resting after hours of use.

The next morning, when I went outside to feed his deer their daily cracked cornmeal, I swore they were listening for his whistle that signaled the dinner bell.

There truly is no place like grandmother's house.

Me and my grandmotherMadelyn Neal

There is nothing that soothes the soul better than taking on the task of feeding his deer friends, looking at old pictures and even trying on my grandmother's old wedding dress and mom's old prom dresses.

Wearing my grandmother's wedding dress.Madelyn Neal

In the spirit of New Year's resolutions, find your happy place, listen to the quiet and you'll find both yourself and your lost loved ones there. When the clock chimed at night, I felt the most at peace I have felt in a long time. I can't wait for the next visit to see my grandmother, because I know every time I visit, not only will I enjoy watching our favorite movies, learning how to knit and eating our delicious family specialties, but I'll also welcome the comforting feeling that what we have lost isn't lost, it's just not as visible as we would like.

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