She was my first friend.
Growing up, I didn't have acquaintances to depend on and I preferred it that way. I spent most of my young days getting drunk on novels where I could pretend to be someone I was not in a life I was not capable of having, and as a result, I didn't have much time out of my own head space to form relationships. She was and still is, my most trusted confidant and my very best friend.
My grandmother raised me from the ground up. She dug her nails into my spine and lifted me from the hollow space of my misery. She created a warrior out of me; the kind of warrior that knew to always be empathetic and to give what I could when I could. She planted seeds of thought in my stomach and watched them bloom from my ears - she watched me develop my own sense of being, my own ideology, and my own moral compass.
She gave me everything when I deserved nothing. She'll tell you that that isn't true and that I deserved all of her love and tenderness, but I disagree. She has a heart made of silver and gold and it is almost too big for her chest. But, I know her, and I know that she wouldn't have it any other way. She would lay her life down for me, without hesitation, if I asked her. She would do it for any of her grandchildren.
I listen to my mom and my aunts talk about how my grandmother messed up as a mom when they were younger. I see the pain and guilt in her eyes when we talk about it, and something in my chest will always ache. My aunts and mother have a right to their truth, just as I do with my own mother, but my grandmother has given her life force to be better for her grandchildren. She may have her own ghosts lingering in her closet, but my own ghosts have always gotten along with hers and there is nothing I wouldn't do for her.
To this day, she calls me frequently. She never tires of me, nor I her. She leaves sweet voicemails when I can't pick up, and she makes efforts to see me when she can.
She has cried every single year while sending me off to college. She may not know it, but I've cried every single year, too. It kills me to see her so upset and know that there's nothing I can do to ease her pain. She is strong and resilient, and I have seen her ready to fight for her children and grandchildren, but I have also seen her crumble under the weight of everything. I have seen her sob while she sat with me in the hospital when I had Bell's Palsy (otherwise known as a partial face paralysis), and I have seen her tremble at the thought of losing any of us.
I don't know what I'd do without her. She is everything I hope to be.