Of Grandmothers and Pandemics

Of Grandmothers and Pandemics

The last letter I wrote to her was on pink paper. It was an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of pastel printer paper I had discovered discarded in the supply room.

The pandemic was officially a month old and care homes were centres of outbreaks. Spring was ruffled with beautiful blossoms and Gram was constantly in my thoughts. Every time the rain clouds lifted from the mountains I thought of her as a young woman in her cedar shingled house near the river with the mountains behind her, and of the paintings in her apartment of snow capped peaks.

There was an urgency in my words as I typed them on the computer.  Reassuring words laced with fear. Usually I wrote my letters by hand but suddenly I felt I had no time. I told her I was okay, I could still be at work, that we had measures in place. I told her I missed her. I said “I love you very much,” and I asked her to thank the health care workers who watched over her because I couldn’t.

Within minutes the letter was printed, envelope addressed, and in the post that would leave that day.

I prayed the pandemic would skip her.

My Gram was born in October 1918. The year of a deadly pandemic. It skipped her then and as it turns out, this one skipped her too.

When she died on April 24, she had lived 6 days longer than she was given by the nurses who see this kind of thing all the time. She had stopped eating. She was disoriented and had a pain in her head. I was in the car, heading to a forest lit with a bright green filter. The phone rang. My family never calls, they text, so I knew it was important. Gram may not make it through the night. I walked in memories that day.

That evening my little sister said, “Call Aunt Ev. We just all said goodbye to Gram. She saw the baby by video.”

I called. With the remaining battery on her cell phone my sweet Aunt turned the camera to Gram so we could see each other. She couldn’t hear me, her hearing aids were out. There were her giant blue eyes staring back at me and my Aunt shouted, “That’s Lori!”

“I know who it is,” she said.

Yeah, she knew. After years of éclairs and flowers and take out coffee and frozen meals and cups of tea and coconut cookies and winter coats and bed skirts and cardigans and pictures in frames and mountain-scapes and newspapers and record players and toy trucks that spin gears that pick up blocks in their path and old photos of a grandfather I never met, and conversation from infant babbling to women’s wisdom, she knew it was me.

She wanted to say something.

“Get me outta here!”

There were tears in my laughter.

A pandemic changes everything. We are not together as a family. There has not been a funeral, yet. Her ashes are in an urn, waiting out the virus that keeps us from being together, the crowd of us, like we used to be at the family get-togethers where we sat her in a chair on a deck with just enough shade and reminded her of how many people came from her.

“Look what you did, Grandma,” we would say as we placed a great grandchild on her knee.

A pandemic changes everything.

My goodbye for now will be éclairs. I will get one for me and one for you, Gram, like I used to. You always said, “Well it’s no use saving it for later.”

So I will eat both.

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2 Replies to “Of Grandmothers and Pandemics”

  1. Sweet Lori. Such a lovely story. So happy you had such a good relationship with grandma. I’m sure you’ll cherish all the good memories in the years to come. We will see her again soon when all is new! Take care and hope to see you guys when we can all be together. 💕

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