Goodbye, Grandma Wettlaufer

In my life, I’ve lived through my fair share of death. Friends, friends of friends, family of friends, family of mine…I’ve dealt with it all.

My first brush with it (or at least the first I remember) was the year when four relatives went on me. Three I was pretty close to, one I can only associate with a single fuzzy memory that’s still pretty cool in spite of its vagueness. I was ten and eleven years old then, and it was all very jarring. I’d start to get over one and hey, we’re doing this again. You never truly get used to it, but an introduction like that will certainly help as much as it possibly can.

That, of course, was long before there was a blog. And somehow, even though I’ve been asked to speak at all kinds of things over the years, I’ve never been asked to talk at a funeral. So I have no idea how to write one of these things. When you write a So Long for a celebrity, it’s not always easy, but it’s generally pretty simple. That person was a part of your life, but it was usually for one or two key reasons that a lot of people understand. You talk about those and relate them to your own existence and you’re good. but what do you do when the person you’re trying to write about is your grandmother, and the things you remember her for are so numerous and so scattered that it’s hard to put them into words?

I lost my grandma on my dad’s side of the family last week. She was 88 and a half, so she had a good run. She’d also been in and out of the hospital a few times in the last year, so it’s not like I didn’t have any warning that the end was coming. But hospital or no hospital, warning or no warning, I’m pretty broken up over it.

By the time you hit age 35, you’d figure that you’d be ready for this sort of thing. You’re well aware that no matter how much you’d like it to, nothing and no one lasts forever. But when you’re reminded of this, it sucks. It just can’t be real. How can the woman who laughed and laughed at me as I rode the plastic bike from her garage up and down her driveway pretending it was my “myrtlecycle” not be able to tell every person on earth that story anymore? How can it be possible that the one who let me play with my first AM, FM and shortwave radio because she knew how much I loved radios won’t ever open my eyes to something so amazing and life-changing again? Will I seriously never again hear that bunch of chiming clocks, set just off time enough to go off in a mess of bells and train whistles? Will we never shoot another game of Crokinole? Will we never watch another Blue Jays game together? Will I never meet another person so endlessly fascinated by my Braille books? Who’s going to be proud of me for being the grandson that’s smart enough to watch the news with her and set my loud mouthed uncles straight on matters of politics even though I’m only 9 years old? Will I never again hear an old, wise person say “ask Steven, he’ll know the answer”? Will I never get another chance to taste that zucchini bread? That shortbread? The graham wafer pie that was good on its own, but better as a distraction to others while I attacked that shortbread? Will anyone else be willing to dig through 40 years of basement junk to show me what 78 records look like so an old story would make more sense even though she didn’t have anything to play them on once she found them?

She was a special lady, and even though we didn’t see each other as much in recent years as we used to, I hope she knows how special she was, how much she helped shape my life. And I hope that if she does know, that it’s something she can be even the tiniest bit proud of.

Thanks for everything, Grandma. I hope you and Grandpa are having a good time, wherever you are.

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