The One I Couldn’t Write

As the music poured through the car speakers and the tears streamed down my face, I thought to myself, “This is it. I’m finally ready to write about her.”

And yet, here I am, seven hours later, still unable to put two sentences together without punching the “delete” key in utter frustration.

How do you write about the woman who both shaped and was an integral part of every facet of your being for 27 years? How do you squish all that into a neatly-worded blip on a blog?

Apparently you don’t.

So I’m going to try something else- I’m just going to tell you about my morning. We’ll start there and see how it goes.

Actually, wait. Let’s start with last Tuesday.

There I was, absent-mindedly rifling through the wreath section at Kohls, when I heard my phone beep.

My mind went right to the most-likely scenarios. Either Vince was puking on the playground or Grace was burning up and clutching her “bad” ear. It couldn’t possibly be anything else at 1pm on a Tuesday.

It couldn’t be my husband- it was way too early for the “what should I start for dinner?” text.

It couldn’t be my mother- we had literally just ended our daily lunchtime conversation.

It couldn’t be a job offer.

Wait. Wait…back up to that last one.

It was, in fact, a job offer.  Well, sort of.

I read the text, blinked, read it again, blinked…you get the idea.

The marketing director at my friend’s company wanted to hire a freelance writer. He wanted to talk to me.

He wanted to talk to me?!

“Sure!” I replied casually, dancing around the wreaths like I was doing some sort of sacred ritual and also had an uncontrollable urge to pee.

Fast-forward to later that afternoon, when the marketing director interviewed me over the phone and told me he had read my blog and really enjoyed my writing style.

“Oh, you’ve seen the blog? I’m so glad you enjoy it!” I replied casually, doing another sacred ritual/pee dance around my office.

Over the next few days, there was a lot of “Someone read my blog!” followed by “Someone wants to PAY me to WRITE!”- both of which were inevitably rounded out by the ritual/pee dance.

So now that you’re caught up, we can go back to this morning.  The morning of my in-person interview with the marketing director and the president of the company.

Oh, did I forget to mention that?

As you can imagine, I was a pillar of Zen.

So I was driving to work in my Zen-like state- and definitely not mentally rehearsing various disastrous scenarios that involved me walking into the conference room door, tripping over my boots, or choking on my gum- and she popped into my head.

She’s always there in some capacity, but she tends to float to the forefront whenever something big is happening in my life.

She, of course, is my grandmother. The original Gracie. The woman who took a piece of my heart with her when she left us almost 8 years ago.

She was my second mother. She was the woman who gently brushed my hair at night when my actual mother couldn’t get through my tangled mop. She was the woman who fed me fudge pops on her brand new couch while I waited for my parents to bring home my brand new baby sister.

She was the woman who smiled at me when I showed up at her door with my pillow once a week, invited me in, whipped up a ham and cheese on raisin bread (don’t you judge me), gave me her whole bed (“a queen-sized bed for the queen!” ) and let me stay up all night watching infomercials.

She was the woman who taught me how to make “bucking-egg toast” without the egg spilling over the side of the bread.

She was the first reader of my 1988 novel, a 1-page drama entitled, “The Chicken Who Couldn’t Lay Her Egg,” complete with illustrations.

She was the editor-in-chief of every 15-20 page paper I wrote throughout college; she hung my college diploma on her wall because, as I told her, “we did it together.”

She was my most devoted cheerleader, my strongest support system, and the best at keeping me in check (“Come over here so I can hop you in the ass!”)

She was everything to me.  She was always there when I needed her, even if it was just to give me one of her hugs- the ones that, even in the end when she was little and frail, were still so all-encompassing; and a kiss on the cheek; and a quick but heartfelt “Who loves you, Baby?”

And I needed her this morning. I needed her to tell me I could do this. I needed her to tell me I wouldn’t screw it up.

But she was gone.

So I did the only sane thing one could do- crawling through the morning traffic, I chatted with her.

“Gracie, please be here today. I know there’s no way you can let me know you’re hearing this, but please be here.”

And then, like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, I heard the first chords of a once-familiar song streaming through my speakers.

It’s a song called “Fiction” by a band she never would have listened to, Avenged Sevenfold (she was more of a Patsy Cline fan).  Right after her passing, it was part of a playlist I blasted through my earphones on repeat while I ran.

Once she was gone, all I could do was run. Run from the empty feeling in my chest. Run from the ache of losing her. Run from the realization that she was forever out of my reach.

So that’s what I did.

I ran every day, sometimes for hours. I ran until I could feel nothing but pain and my lungs were about to burst. I remember my friend Athena calling to check on me and reminding me, “It’s ok to do this as long as you’re not hurting yourself.” I assured her that I would never do that. But I suppose that’s exactly what I was doing- running so that a different type of pain would take over.

And as I ran, the lyrics spurred me on.

“Gave you all I had to give, found a place for me to rest my head.”

“While I may be hard to find, heard there’s peace just on the other side.”

“Left this life to set me free; took a piece of you inside of me.”

“I know you’ll find your own way when I’m not with you.”

I hadn’t heard that song in years, and suddenly those lines were pouring from my speakers. But this time, I didn’t have any urge to take off in a sprint (not that I could, unless I wanted to go viral on YouTube as “Crazy woman running through traffic on Rt 46 this morning!”). Instead, I sat very still, allowed the tears to flow, and let the words wash over me.

She was right there. How she rigged up my radio is beyond me, but if you knew Gracie, you’d know it was possible.

So that was my morning.

And later, when I walked into that conference room (after getting rid of my gum and making sure my boots weren’t going to get stuck in any thresholds) I was actually pretty Zen-like. How could I not be?  I had the comfort of knowing that I will never have to do this alone.

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