I only had one grandmother. My other one abandoned my mother at the age of two. It sounds ridiculously tragic--and it is. After her husband died, my grandma, Rose, left to join the carnival and didn't see my mother for over a decade after leaving.
That didn't just affect my mother and her siblings. It affected us grandkids too. Rose had left a hole inside each of us.
I always wanted two grandmas. I know it seems selfish since some kids--like my mom--don't even have parents because one died and the other likes roller coasters. And growing up, my dad's parents lived towns away and I felt pretty isolated from extended family.
I loved my dad's mother. But still, we only saw her twice a year, and I felt like someone was missing. So I asked my mom if we could meet the famous (or infamous) Rose. To a ten-year-old, she sounded dangerous, maybe even exciting. The meeting was arranged and . . . it was terrible.
"I love you," Rose said, smoking a million cigarettes one after another. Kissing them instead of my cheeks. "Wait, what's your name again, Hon?"
"Elisa." I held back the tears. I wanted to steal her cigarette--smash it--and throw it into the wind. Maybe then SHE'D feel what it's like to have something taken away.
"That's right." She didn't even look at my face. "You're name's Elisa. And I love you."
As time passed, I learned Rose didn't even remember my mom's birthday correctly. I bet she sucked at memory games.
I knelt down a few nights after meeting my second grandma and I prayed. "God, that woman isn't my grandma. Isn't my other real one out there somewhere?" I imagined her then. How she'd be so sweet and nice. How we'd care about each other and even remember each other's names--if we tried hard enough. She'd cook inventive things and laugh easily, like Mary Poppins, without the purse. I swear I imagined her all the time, knowing someday--even if it was years down the road--we would meet.
It was my greatest dream. That and praying the Indian children would get food. Those commercials were always on about kids starving and how you could adopt one for a dollar a month. I had nightmares about those poor kids with cleft lips. Little did I know, almost a decade later, I'd have a baby with that same defect.
During Zeke's life my sole grandma called every day. I didn't want to talk with anyone, but she'd stay on the phone, even when I remained silent. Zeke died, and still the phone calls continued. 'Cept it was me calling her once a week. A few years passed and I started healing. "Happy Saturday." I'd call my grandma and grin into the phone. She'd giggle. Then I'd tell her some crude joke and she'd act offended before laughing hysterically.
"Do you ever wish you had two grandmas?" my grandma asked me one day. "You used to tell me that when you were little."
"Yeah, I made one up. I'd imagine her all the time. But I'm an adult now. I've realized I just have one grandma--and you're better than two put together."
I knew she smiled, humbly. "Still though, everyone deserves two sets of grandparents. And if you prayed for your other grandma, maybe you'll be surprised with what God might bring your way."
Good luck with that, I thought. Leave it to my grandma, the eternal optimist.
For five years we grew close, talking every Saturday. Then my grandma passed.
My dad asked me to play the violin at her viewing. I spent more money than Cade and I had, trying to look extra nice. I donned a gorgeous outfit and bought a necklace for thirty dollars! But when we arrived at the hotel, the expensive necklace was gone.
"Grandma, I put it in my bag. I wanted to look nice for your viewing. You know, in case you came to see how I'd dressed. You always complimented my clothes."
"Time to go," Cade said, breaking through my thoughts.
I sniffled, wiped my eyes and decided to be strong, necklace or not, I'd be tough. My grandma always saw the best in things. Maybe losing the necklace was meant to test my spirit.
Little did I know, she'd planned a miracle. A sign that she was watching out for me. And it all revolved around the necklace.
What a character.
To be continued tomorrow . . .