Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Today I stacked 3 thin gold bracelets on my wrist. They all belonged to my grandmother. My Bandie always wore bracelets, the tiny gold chains tumbling down her wrists when she propped herself up on her elbow in bed. That's how I think of her, mostly. Comfortably reclined in her nightgown and housecoat, adorned in gold and sparkly things.

My Bandie loved things that were pretty, and in her 81 years of life she gathered a reasonably extensive collection of things that are lovely. My Bandie passed away quietly in December, leaving her lovely things to her children, including her jewelry collection which she left to my mother, her only surviving daughter.

Last week, many of the girls in my family gathered in my mother's bedroom to ooh and ahh at the tables lined with the pretty things my grandmother left to my mother, and we each chose a few things to have and wear and think of her. This morning, I stacked those bracelets on my wrist, and I thought of my grandmother.

Sometimes I forget for a minute that Bandie died. I couldn't attend any of the services or cry at her funeral. She passed at home without any preamble or fanfare sometime in middle of the night the day after my due date with Doogleberry. Four days later, my mother dressed her body in a dark room of the mortuary; in those same moments, I was delivering my baby.

I hope my Bandie danced between the two, both rooms full of love and tears.

My Bandie was short, "a scrub oak among redwoods!" she used to laugh, referencing my Papa's nearly universally tall family. She was small, with olive skin and dark hair that sat on her head in soft curls. She was a lady.

Bandie was kind and thoughtful and generous. She was elegant and polished. She valued good manners, good grammar, and bad jokes. She loved Beanie babies and pigs (the decorative kind) and Rottweilers (the real kind.) She loved shopping from catalogs and QVC. She loved food and parties and clothes and flowers. She loved her friends and she loved her family.

And Bandie loved my children. I was her oldest granddaughter, and my Bug her oldest great-granddaughter. The two of them played matching games on our couch after Papa died, Bandie's soft voice rising in pitch with a child-friendly sort of sing song. She loved Mr. Baggins, with his playful little grin. And I know she loved my littlest son. I don't know exactly what life before or after this one looks like, but it brings me peace to imagine her admiring my baby's golden locks and round baby cheeks as they passed each other on that road between this life and the one beyond.

Plus, it explains why he was so late. My Bandie was never on time for anything.

Just as I do with my Papa, I cherish many fond memories with Bandie. My parents and I lived in her home when I was a toddler, and my mom tells me stories of myself as a two year old, like the time I unknowingly snatched one of her precious Lladro statues off the coffee table and toddled across the room with it clutched in my tiny little hand. 

Later, when I visited her home by myself as a teenager, Bandie was nervous to allow me to swim by myself while she got ready for the day in her room (a process which, it bears mentioning, took hours to accomplish.) We agreed on a plan, which, in retrospect, was pretty ridiculous: I'd float on a raft while reading a book. Every few minutes, I'd ring this enormous brass bell to let her know I was still alright. Dutifully, I floated there, ringing that silly thing every few minutes to reassure her I had not drowned. After what must have been nearly an hour of ringing every 3 or 4 minutes, my Bandie appeared at the sliding door. 

"Are you ok?!", she called. "I heard you ringing the bell so I came right down!"

It still makes me laugh to think of all the bell rings she missed, and to think that she imagined that in the process of drowning I'd be able to ring that stupid bell.


Bandie was particular. She appreciated the fine things in life, and enjoyed surrounding herself with beauty. Bandie expected quality.

Once, when I was 15 or so, she took me through the drive-thru at Arby's. I had never seen my Bandie eat fast food before, but someone had told her about the Reuben sandwich and she wanted to try one. She leaned far out the window and spoke loudly into the intercom system. In her deliberate way of speaking, she ordered as if she was at the finest seafood establishment.

"That Reuben you have?" she asked. "Is it really--- fresh?"

I secretly laughed, imagining a fast food joint answering that question honestly. 

But since then, I've thought more about it, and about what my Bandie meant by her question, and here is what I have come up with. Whatever you are going to do, you might as well do it right.


When I think about it, I guess I always thought of my Bandie a little like a bird. She seemed so... delicate, like maybe the winds and the storms of the world were sometimes too much for her fragile little wings. And in some ways, I suppose maybe it was true. I think of my Bandie in her perfectly curated nest, chirping a pretty little song but only for those who stopped long enough to hear it. I feel a little sad when I think of all the times I marched by too quickly to hear her singing.

But you know what? In lots of ways, I think I was wrong about Bandie and her bird wings. After all, in the end, being delicate and particular and fragile didn't keep her from flying.