Fruitloops will forever hold a special place in my heart. I poured a bowl of them tonight and as soon as I smelled them, it all came rushing back to me.
I was 5 years old and we were driving cross country for our big move from Washington state to Arkansas. We stayed at my grandma and grandpa’s house in Utah for a few weeks. My mom never bought sugary cereal for us and my grandma had Fruitloops on hand, so naturally, I ate them every morning. I’d wake up and go get one of her deep plastic bowls out of the cupboard. My grandma would help me pour them in. And in that moment, I’d feel so much love for this woman who allowed me to eat such a treat each morning and cared enough to truly take care of me.
I remember other things as well, the smell of the rotten peaches in their orchard that hadn’t been picked in awhile and the feeling of them as they squished under my shoes (and loving both the squishy-ness and the sicky sweet smell). We would climb the trees and pick the apples from the orchard so we could run across the street and feed the horses.
One day I fell off the driveway and landed straight into some cacti that were planted along the edge. That night, I had to lay on my tummy, butt in the air, as my mom tediously picked each pricker out of my behind. To help ease my pain and distract me, my grandma told me I wasn’t the only one who’s had that experience there. I still felt slightly humiliated, but it did help my bruised ego a tiny bit.
We slept upstairs and I would explore things, like their big wooden chest in the room at the end of the hall. I remember smelling the old things that lay inside (I was a weird kid, what can I say) and looking at the treasures that lay inside, wondering how old they must be. There was a Boy Scout handkerchief that I just knew had to be ancient (I think it was my uncle’s…). This is only one of many visits, but for some reason, the details stick out so much more vividly than other trips.
Back to the present, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks and a lot has happened. As of September 11th, it’s now been 9 years since my grandmother passed away. Tice and I had only been married a couple of months.
I remember getting the call that she was going to die within the next week or so and as I got off of the phone, it started sprinkling outside. Call me sentimental, superstitious, or just freaking adorably naive (haha) but I felt like it was the heavens crying with me. I was living in Vegas after all, rain is sparse there, ya’ll!
We drove the long 7 hour drive up with heavy hearts and drawn out silences. I was thankful we had the chance to see her before she left us. She didn’t quite look like Grandma anymore and wasn’t cognizant at all, but it was good to see her alive one last time.
I sat around feeling awkward and uncomfortable in their home, a place I normally felt so at ease in. By then, they had moved into a condo, but again, it was special because it was their home and new memories had been made there.
I was surrounded by family that I love, and yet sometimes feel like an outsider around. For some reason, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be sad or mourn quite as much as my cousins and other family members did. I thought they would think I was silly for being so distraught over her death because we were always “the distant cousins”. We lived across the country and everyone else (all 7 of my mother’s siblings and their families lived close by my grandparents). They had monthly get togethers and all of my cousins grew up together. So, my time with my grandparents was much more limited compared to theirs.
As I sat there on the floor beside my cousins, in the room where she lay dying, the sound of her rattling breath heavy in the background. My grandpa came in and held her hand and began to tell us all stories of how they met and their life together. I swear her breathing instantly began to sound less labored and within a few minutes, we all felt it; we knew she was gone. I instantly wanted to sob, but held back because of feeling like I wasn’t allowed to be so sad. No one made me feel that way. It was my own perception, but it was still difficult.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that although my time was limited with them, it was also concentrated into wonderful little visits spattered throughout my life. We either stayed in their home, or they stayed in ours, and we got a full one to two weeks of one-on-one time with them. I realize now that my time and relationship with my grandma wasn’t less valuable than my cousins’, it was just different.
I have so many different memories, like going to Chinese restaurants with them because they would always take my brother and me there when we’d come up to visit. We had some visits in high school where it almost felt like we were their kids, as they’d tell us to be careful and ask what time we’d be in that night. I have memories of visiting them while they were in Dallas and we were in Arkansas, and getting to see their funky missionary apartment. Or, Grandma telling me that “this too shall pass” right before going in for a very scary surgery at 17 years old. That phrase helped me get through a long 3-4 month healing process. Or her telling me that I most likely wouldn’t end up marrying the boyfriend who’d just left on a 2 year mission for my church. I was so stubbornly defiant about that, but she called it.
I write all of this to say, I love you, Grandma. I’m glad I got to have you in so many concentrated doses and value our relationship so much. I think of you often and remember all of the little life lessons you taught me along the way. I look forward to the next time I get a whiff of Fruitloops or hear Frank Sinatra and get to feel you close by again.