Moving away, I knew there would be events I would have to miss – birthdays, Thanksgivings, anniversaries, etc. However, when I signed up for this I did not anticipate missing my grandparents’ memorial.
Two days before school let out for summer, my grandfather passed away.
He had been sick and miserable for a very long time. The last time I went to visit he wasn’t even himself. I was sad for my family, especially my mom and brother who both had strong relationships with him. But I was also glad that his suffering was over. A month later, I got back from Australia and New Zealand. My grandmother had taken a turn for the worse. She just was not ready to live in this world without the love of her life. Two days before my move to Uruguay my grandmother joined my grandfather. That one wrecked me a bit. I refused to cry in front of my parents. I refused to really acknowledge how empty my life felt without her. So I threw myself into moving and starting fresh.
Today is the memorial for my grandparents. The whole family is in Phoenix, Arizona celebrating the lives of two of the most important people in my life. And I can’t be there. It breaks my heart. But it also means that I can breathe a little. I don’t do grief well. I don’t want to talk out my feelings. I don’t want to have a big crying release. I just want to deal with it. I’m very much like my grandmother when it comes to all of that. So in my absence I wrote a letter to my grandparents. I recorded it and sent it for the memorial.
Dear Gram and Papa,
Hello from Uruguay! I am so sorry I could not be there in person to celebrate you with our family. I know, I know Gram. Why in the world did I want to come here in the first place. (Said in a deep southern North Carolina accent). But you guys would actually really love it here!
Papa, they have grills here that would make your pig-cookin’ soul proud! I’m sure you would have figured out Spanish simply so you could ask one of the grill masters if you could peek behind the counter and see the grill in action. Heck, you’d probably already have a grill purchased, meat cooking, and people ready to eat! Gram, I started a book club at my school. So far the book has been really funny. I put it on the kindle so let Crystal know. Not sure it is your speed. May be a little risqué for you, but I think you would at least appreciate the author’s humor. I’ve laughed out loud numerous times! I saw a book in one of the many book stores here that had an Amish woman on the cover and instantly thought of you. I had no clue what the title was because it was in Spanish. It just made me giggle that they have Amish books in Uruguay. It makes me wonder if you already read it.
Papa, I’m taking driving lessons in order to learn stick shift. I’ve only had one lesson, but now I have a much bigger appreciation for the fact that you always drove with both feet. I need loads more practice, but I’m determined to be able to rent my own manual car by October. The guy who is teaching me is super patient, but my heart still pounds every time I make a mistake. Did you know that I always got nervous when you drove with me? I think it was the highway patrolman thing. I always got sweaty palms and drove extra cautious with you because I was so nervous about disappointing you. By the end, I was so excited when you asked me to drive because it meant you wanted to go somewhere.
Gram, yesterday I laughed so hard at something one of my friends said that tears rolled down my cheeks. It freaked her out so much because she thought I was crying. I’ll just have to teach her that laughing until you cry is one of the greatest feelings on earth. Oh, and I almost forgot! Guys, my apartment came with a card table. We already had a wicked gin rummy game. A few of us knew the game and taught the others to play. You know how competitive I am! I forget sometimes how much I love cards. Remember that time in North Carolina when you taught all of the cousins how to play Poker. Was it Rachel or Sarah who had the lucky hat and wouldn’t take it off. I miss those beach vacations with you. I’m sure you know that I live right by the water. It isn’t North Carolina, but I really love going out on my balcony and sitting looking out over the river.
Oh, Papa, I carpool with four other people and every Friday we send in songs to pump us up. I sing at the top of my lungs just like you taught me, and when I don’t know the words I just whistle and hum. I can still hear your baritone belting out “How Great Thou Art.” Gram, the people at my grocery store know me. I made sure to spend some time getting to know the store and going on the exact day at the same time so that I know I will see my people. I also bought my bread, beer, and bananas my first day. I was raised right.
I’m getting pretty good at cooking. Still haven’t mastered your potato salad though. And I’ll have to wait for my boxes to be shipped before I can make Papa’s chili. I also have to wait for the boxes for all of my toys. You were right, Papa, toys make everything more fun. You were also right about food bringing people together. The first thing I did was make sweets and give them to the people in my building. I met my neighbor and my doormen by bringing them banana bread and cookies. It put a smile on their face just like your carrot cake used to put a smile on mine.
Papa, I’m trying not to meet strangers. I’ve met some amazing people. Hopefully, I will get to the “Ed Short for mayor” status. It’s my goal. Gram, I’ve kept my big girl panties on the whole time. No matter how crazy and frustrated I get I just face the problem and fix it. You would be so proud of how brave I have been. And I’m getting pretty good and setting up a routine every day, Gram. I walk the Rambla every morning just like you used to and I appreciate the sunrise every single morning. They are mighty pretty here. Oh, and I bought some roller blades. Every time I put them on I have you in my head, “well, shit Kimmy don’t break your arm or nothing.” I promise I won’t.
I was pulling money out of my purse to give my students for a fundraiser and my $2 bill fell out. Of course they all thought that was so cool. I never leave the house without it. I’m also eating my oranges so that I don’t get scurvy. There are beautiful ones at the market right behind my apartment. Papa, you would love the feria. It’s like a big street yard sale and food market. You can literally find anything! And they expect you to bargain for the price, so you would be all over it. You would probably have all of the stall owners business cards and life stories by now. Gram, there is a casino right on the beach here. I haven’t been yet, but it is on my list. You would have probably already been twice and cleaned them out. I still think you are the luckiest person ever knew.
I miss you so much Gram. I pick up the phone at least once a day to call you and tell you how the weather is in Montevideo. And I still can’t bring myself to delete 6029441212 from my phone. Did you know my apartment number is 602? I just felt like it was a sign it needed to be my home and so far I haven’t been wrong. I carry your pictures with me in my planner and I carry your stories and lesson with me in my life. I strive to be your legacy. I know you both thought I was a little crazy for moving all the way down here, but I also think you would be really proud of me. I will never stop wanting to tell you about what is going on with me. I talk to you at night sometimes. I hope you hear me. Well, I guess all there is left to say is I love you and all that good stuff.