Goodbye to My Grandma
She would check the weather forecast for the city I went off to study, every day, for 8 years. She would make a point of telling the whole family she did that, but not as a way to boast — that was just her way of telling everyone she cares. Her way of telling me she thought about me every day, even though I was far away. I like to think she still does that, wherever she is now.
I used to spend every summer with her and grandpa in their house in the mountain. There were never children my age there to play with and despite that, I never felt lonely. One of my happiest childhood memories is dressing up in her clothes and parading in her high heels down the narrow pathway that led to the house. The pathway alongside which she used to plant tulips, every summer.
Tulips have always been my favourite flower. It is only when she died that I realized it’s because of her.
My childhood “art” is still plastered all around that house. Even the silly Aladdin stickers I put on the garden chairs (despite being explicitly told not to) are still there. Two years ago, a notebook with my high school essays popped up in the pile of old paper they used for burning in the old garden stove. Her and grandpa spent all summer reading and rereading it and showing it off to all their guests.
She was the first person who showed me what a human heart looked like, and not just figuratively. She taught biology and one day, when I was five, decided to take me to her school and show me the heart model they had there. I still clearly remember how I envisioned this beautiful, big, red heart symbol and was utterly shocked when I saw a model of an actual human heart. I was expecting to see the symbol of love and she showed me the thing that keeps me alive.
Speaking of love and hearts, her and grandpa didn’t have an over-the-top romantic love story. She would always joke about how she had had so many guys after her in her youth, and many of them very handsome, grandpa not included. She always said she had chosen him over those handsome guys because he had the biggest heart. I have never seen a man more heart-broken than him, when he lost her.
She was never a great cook (I think I inherited that from her, among other things) but she would never miss and opportunity to have the whole family over for dinner. Even when it was some religious holiday that only she knew about and nobody else celebrated. Even when it wasn’t a holiday or a birthday, but me or my cousin coming home to visit for a week. Even when she couldn’t stand on her feet for longer than fifteen minutes because of chemotherapy.
She beat breast cancer three times. The first time it was almost terminal. And she did it as silently and as modestly as she did everything else. That’s the kind of woman she was.
She died when I was so far away from home that I couldn’t make it back in time for the funeral. That day I said goodbye to her in a church on the campus I was staying at because I didn’t know where else to go, even though I’m not religious. I said goodbye to her a couple of days later when I drew a tulip because I wanted so bad to bring her tulips somewhere, somehow. I said goodbye to her the first time I went back to her house and she wasn’t there. I said goodbye to her at the graveyard where she’s buried. I started writing this as a way to say goodbye to her.
It seems like I keep forcing myself to say goodbye to her so I can stop being constantly aware of how big part of my life she was and the emptiness her death left behind. But it’s impossible to do that. So no, I won’t say goodbye to her. Because the thought of her not being somewhere, anywhere, watching the news and checking the forecast for Ljubljana will always hurt too much to bear. Instead, I will just hope the sun is shining for her too, wherever she is today.