My 95 year old grandmother was in an accident last week. I got the news as I hiked and with limited cell service, the only thing I knew for certain was that it was bad: ten broken bones and a cut so bad that it couldn’t be stitched.
One foot in front of the other, unsure of whether I should tell those I was hiking with about a potential complication to our planned celebration afterwards, I thought about my Mimi. To say she was an influence in my life sells her so short. So many memories of my growing up are linked to her arms, her lap, the signature red and white gingham of her kitchen tablecloth, her post and beam living room. She is incredibly strong, fiercely independent, and would give anything she could to anyone who needed it.
As a child, I was convinced I would become a doctor. It was a serious reality in my mind. If it was science-related, I put it on my birthday and Christmas lists. One science kit came with a frog that was ready to be dissected, a tiny scalpel and a small road map of frog parts to look for. I was beyond excited to cut into that little guy, but there was one complication. Mimi loved frogs. Her birthdays and Christmases were often marked by frog themed presents. So…I did what any ten-year-old serious scientist with an incredible grandmother would do. I gave the tiny frog in his tiny vial to Mimi as a gift. For 27 years, that frog in his specimen jar has adorned a chest that sits in her hallway. Anyone who walks to the bathroom at Mimi’s house has walked past my gift – quite an honor.
Mimi’s speech, not only what she says, but how she says it, defines her so clearly for me. She has these signature lines that will only ever belong to her in my mind. Laying in her hospital bed, she continues to deliver them just like she would if you showed up at her house and sat down at her table, still covered in a gingham tablecloth. I visited her yesterday and spent most of the visit near the head of her bed. It struck me, as I looked down at her, just how much I really do look like her. She was always so much larger than life that I never took the time to notice; Mimi was always Mimi – no one could look like her. But it’s there – the shape and color of my eyes, the shape of our noses, and even the size of my ears. She looked up from her bed and we talked about a bump that I get when I’m stressed and, with a concerned look on her face said “Well for gosh sakes, Beeb, what’s got you so stressed out?”
To watch someone you love so much be scared, in pain, and unsure of what’s lies ahead is scary. But to watch the strength and calm with which Mimi can face all of that – it’s humbling. She’s going to make it home – she told me that yesterday – so the only thing I can do is support her until she reaches that goal…and try to keep my stress bump under control until she’s there.