Sunday, July 6, 2008


This weekend, the rooster lost a crucial member of his fan club and support system. He lost his great grandmother, who was my hero, and now it is my job to keep her alive for him and the rest of our family through the love that lives on.

The rooster will not remember his great grandmother in the vivid way that I wish he would, but he will know all about her, and the many gifts that she gave him.

He will hear how she came all the way across the country to watch him be born. Already in her eighties, diabetic, arthritic, a cancer survivor, scarred from a vicious flesh-eating bacteria that nearly cost her life and limb, she came, looking beautiful and far younger than her years, ready to hold her granddaughter's hand for the umpteenth time, to help and care, and to meet the newest member of her beloved brood. Not even 32 hours of labor deterred her; she refused to be sent home for rest. He was the first child she ever watched being born, though she'd gone to celebrate many a new baby in the family.

The rooster will know that his great grandmother bought him his crib for his first gift, and she sent a check to open his college savings account. He will know how she treasured gifts of love and symbolism, of support and of encouragment. He will know how much she treasured cards more than gifts, how she read her cards so carefully and chose them with such love.

He will know that photos of him, of Peaches, of all her family adorned every shelf and covered her refrigerator. And he will know that she sent the cutest little outfits ever because she just loved to see kids look "darling."

I tried calling him "darling" today so that he would hear that loving word as I did, and it make him laugh. It made me cry.

The rooster and Peaches both got as much from their great grandma as she could pack into her short time with them. I will make it all last for the rest of my lifetime, through the stories I will tell them, the photos I will show them, and the videos we will watch. They will know her funny Brooklyn-meets-Southern accent, the way she crooked her finger, and the very best sentence she ever gave me, "I am so proud of you, I could bust." I will infuse their lives with this sentence as she did mine, and hope that it makes the same kind of through line for them, inspiring them to be their best.

But I admit that I am heatbroken that they will not eat turkey dinner at her table. That they will have no more of her kisses. That the photos cannot convey to them how her eyes twinkled with glee or mischief. That they never tasted her pie. That she cannot hold their hands when they too have children. She had the most beautiful little hands. Strong.

I close my eyes and I concentrate hard. I can hear her. She taught me well, I listened carefully, I cling to the lessons, I still benefit from her reassurance.

My grandma did not know that the rooster has autism. In some moments, when I panic right now, I feel a desperate and selfish need to talk to her about this, about everything. But the truth is, if I remember to concentrate and listen, I still can hear her. She doesn't care what you call the rooster, she just loves him. Here or gone, she just loves us. It is a love too huge to die.


pixiemama said...

I'm so sorry...

redheadmomma said...

What a beautiful post, dear blogger friend. I'm so sorry for your loss, and the loss for your children. It is evident that your grandma changed a part of the world solely with her love. I wish you peace through this difficult time.

If I may make a small suggestion, what might be both helpful to your kiddos and cathartic for you is to go to one of the photo sites like snapfish, winkflash, etc. and make a book about the lessons and memories of your grandma. It could be so simple: on one side of the spread, you could put in a scanned picture of her; on the other, a memory or one of the many lessons she taught you. I've made lots of books similar, and they've been huge successes. I made one for my mom & dad, and she said it was the first thing they packed when the fires were threatening them in Big Sur. But this one could be for you, and Peaches, and the Rooster. They would read it over and over again, and it would be another (visual) way of celebrating your beautiful grandma.

hugs to you, dear friend.

Niksmom said...

Oh, Gayle! I'm so sorry for your loss. What you wrote, though, is so achingly, devastatingly beautiful; print it on lovely stationery for each of your kids and put it away for them until they are older.

And, in their own ways, they knwo all they need to about their great grandmother...children's hearts ar like that.

Sending you love and hugs. xo

KAL said...

I'm so sorry. I know what that ache feels like. Beautiful post.

jen said...

I so moved by your memories - they make me laugh & cry along with you.

praying peace & comfort for you.

know that the love that spills through the stories of your beloved grandmother is evident in you as well - your children will know that love well, because she has passed it on to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Sending a hug.

Christine said...

Oh. No words can make this easier. But I am so, so sorry for your loss. I'm sending good thoughts and big hugs your way.