Skyler Hesch, Campus Life Editor
This past weekend my Grandma Betty passed away. I thought that writing it would make that ugly, sad truth easier to swallow, but there is still a lump in my throat and tears forming in my eyes, eyes the same shade of blue as hers. While I am going to miss her more than words can describe, I am glad she is no longer suffering. The past few years have been tough. Her skin became pale and thin, she lost a tremendous amount of weight, her nonsense chatter eventually turned into nothing more than noises, and even the noises were far and few inbetween, her blue eyes would see me, but not see me. Her family, the people she loved the most in the whole world, became unfamiliar faces; Alzheimer’s made us strangers.
There are little girls who love their moms and little girls who love their dads, but I was a little girl who loved my Grandma Betty. She was there the day I was born, she was there to hear my first cry, she was there to hold me and make me feel safe on my first day in this big world. The second she saw me, she loved me so much that she decided to have the nurse put ink on my little newborn feet and press them into the sweater she was wearing that day. Over the years, the ink footprints have faded because of use and going through the wash, but the outline of them is still there on that pink sweater she was wearing that day in May of 1998.
I loved going to Grandma Betty’s house. She had a way of making you feel like you were the only person that mattered to her in the entire world. I always felt special, especially when she said, “you’re my girl.” Grandma’s house felt different than home. She did not care about clutter or having things clean all the time. Now that I am older, I understand that she was kind of a hoarder, but as a child, the boxes lining her walls were enthralling and mysterious. Each day she went through something different, carefully looking at each item and seeing value in everything, just like she saw the value in us. She always had so many toys to play with and kept them where we wanted, even if they were an inconvenience to her. I have some of my fondest childhood memories playing spies, house, and detectives at her house on State Street with my cousins,
setting up Barbie houses, sleeping on her green couches, and watching Disney movies in Sesame Street chairs.
Her hands had a magic touch. They scratched backs, painted ornaments, glued toys back together, crafted decorations, washed dishes, and wiped away tears. They were gentle and patient and giving. Even at the end of her life, her hands which had forgotten how to do most things, still squeezed the hand she was holding, “love squeezes” is what she called them. Grandma Betty always put everyone else first. She wanted us to be happy, no matter what. She always gave the best birthday presents. There were usually practical things, like socks she trimmed with lace or decorated with floral designs, underwear covered in trending movie characters, and clothes, but there was always something fun like art and craft supplies or my favorite gift: a purple Barbie minivan with a battery operated sliding door.
Grandma was my person. When I was little and hated haunted houses, she would wear her big long coat for me to hide in so I did not have to see anything scary. When I was afraid of swimming, Grandma sat with me in the shade and watched me splash in the little pool until I was ready to swim in the big one. When I got yelled at by my parents and ran to my room to cry, Grandma always followed me in to comfort me and wipe away my tears. On our beach vacations, Grandma and I spent hours walking on the beach and collecting shells. She held me after my first hard break up. She beamed with pride as she watched me graduate from high school, something she never got the opportunity to do herself. She was always there for me.
It is hard thinking about all the things she is going to miss. She will never get to see me graduate college, watch me get married, pick up another seashell, or hold her future great-grandchildren. I cannot call her up on the phone and talk to her or ask her how she is doing. I cannot hear her tell me that she loves me the most of everyone and that I have always been her girl. Now that she is gone, I am even more grateful for the things that make me like her: my
height, my eyes, my temper, and the way I love others. While this is one of the hardest things I have ever been through, I am so grateful for the memories, her example of putting family first, and the legacy of love left by my beautiful and sweet Grandma Betty.