I was sitting at the piano this evening and my husband said, “Your Mom tried calling my phone.” I checked my phone and I saw a missed call from my Mom and a text message that read “call me asap please”. Four words you never want to read. I hit the redial button and I heard the phone ring once and then I heard someone pick up but all I could hear was the silence – the silence where no words are spoken but yet it says so many things.
And then I heard my Mom’s voice through the silence. “Elizabeth?”
“Yes,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
And then I heard her crying and she said, “Nana died today.”
I looked over at this giant stuffed cow that sits next to my piano. Some people might find it ridiculous but I honestly don’t care. I’ve long given up on people not understanding these random things that I have that don’t make sense to them but make so much sense to me. When I was growing up my Mom was sick. Before that time I can’t remember spending the night at anyone else’s house. My Mom stayed home with us. But suddenly our whole world changed in the blink of an eye. I was 8. One night we stayed at my Nana’s house and I was laying there in the guest bedroom of my Nana and Papa’s house, silently crying. And then door opened and there was my Nana with this giant cow. She put it in the bed next to me and she said that the cow didn’t like being away from her either, so it lived at her house. This stuffed cow was literally the size of my little 8 year old body. I don’t remember anything else about that night except that when I woke up that cow was still there. That cow became a staple of my childhood. My Mom spent Tuesday’s with my Papa Norm. He had diabetes and as he grew older his eyesight wasn’t that great and he needed help with his insulin. My Papa would make the cow talk and it made me laugh so hard. He made the cow watch his “hour of commercials” aka The Price is Right. And when I went to college, the cow appeared in my van when I opened the back hatch at college to unpack; to unpack over 300 miles away from home – so I wouldn’t be homesick. After college I brought the cow back home with me that Summer, but when I went to leave the cow was buckled in the front seat of my Green Dodge Caravan complete with 2 other cow beanie babies, which had nurse outfits on (Nana loved cows).
Cows. My Nana had them all over her house. She truly loved them. They were in her kitchen. They were in her bathroom. They were on top of her kitchen cabinets.
This weekend my husband and I are going home for a wedding and for what was meant to be my Nana Kay’s 80th Birthday Party on Sunday.
As you grow older, sometimes you move away… I moved away. But my Nana was such a big part of my life and as I was thinking about her birthday this Sunday, I was making a list of the 80 things I loved the most about her and the memories I had. I know it sounds cliché but when my Mom told me that Jesus called her home I looked at that cow and I thought “No! I didn’t get to tell her. I didn’t get to tell her how much I loved her. How much she meant to me. I didn’t get to tell her 80 things I loved the most about her.”
So as I sit here, with this giant stuffed cow consuming my lap, Chris Rice “Come to Jesus” playing in the background, tears rolling down my face, I want to share some of the 80 things I love about my Nana:
*When I was little you had these big red glasses and I used to think you were secretly Sally Jesse Raphael
*I was really shy when I was little and you knew that. You loved children. I have this vivid memory of Aunt Vicky’s Baby Shower (I think it was at Uncle Marks Mom’s house), but in my memory there is this brick fireplace and an L shaped couch and I’m sitting on your lap. You always had acrylic nails and you rubbed my back or my arms and I wasn’t nervous anymore. (I’m sure your Preschool friends you helped at school loved that about you too)
*You and Papa had a refrigerator that had crushed ice and David I thought it was the coolest thing ever that you had a “slushy maker” in your house.
*When you and Papa moved to the house by the golf course, I would ask my Dad if we could golf there so that we could wave to you and Papa on your back patio when we teed off on the 8th hole.
*In the Summer you would have my cousins, Stephanie and Ryan, over for a week and I would come for a weekend. You had a bathtub with jets in it and fun confetti that was for the bathtub.
*You had special checks you only used for birthdays with fun confetti and balloons on them.
*I always knew when a card in the mail came from you because it would be covered in stickers and when I opened it confetti would go everywhere. I’d find pieces of you all over my house for weeks.
*You came to all of our concerts and sporting events. In 6th grade I played the piano for the entire church service for the first time and you and Papa came.
*You and Papa came to the lake in Michigan and spent weekends with us paddle boating or sitting on the dock.
*I never understood cribbage but Papa and David played it together. I wasn’t very good at it and you knew that and always had something else for me to do. Usually making cookies that Papa could eat too.
*You took me for my first ever manicure in a salon when I was 6 and we got to go to lunch after. I did (and still do even though I’ve tried to kick it) bite my fingernails. I stopped biting them for an entire month so I could with you and get my nails painted red.
*When I was home from college we would go to this small diner and Papa would always get Split Pea Soup and tell me that when I was older I would eat baby food too because you didn’t need teeth to eat it. I always thought that was funny because he had teeth.
*You loved parties and you always made sure that everyone had a gift for Christmas. It didn’t matter who they were or how long they’d been dating someone in the family or were even just a friend of someone – they had a gift of some kind.
But above all, I loved that even though you weren’t my biological grandma it didn’t matter. You still came to all of our sporting events, concerts, birthdays, weddings… you were always there.
I wish I would have sent you the letter with the 80 things. But I didn’t and I can’t change that. I can’t bring you back for one last hug.
But as I sit here, I can close my eyes and picture yours and Papa’s house and how it smells. I can hear the Price is Right in the background. I can see all of the memories we shared.
I can hug this giant cow that is still nearly as big as me today as when I was 8 years old and even though I’m really sad right now, I know that I will see you again.
Tell Papa I say, “Hi”. Maybe get him to sing that song he would always sing to us when we were little: “Papa’s little girl. Brush your teeth, comb and curl. Grow up to be a big, big girl”.
I love you Nana.