Today would have been my grandmother's 90th birthday. There was never any question in my mind that we would celebrate 90 and 30 a day apart, but that changed when she passed away in February. To me, Dotty was indestructible. She never seemed old or frail, even when she lost breath walking down the hall and her clothes began to hang on her frame. I can count on one hand the number of times she complained about her health and they were probably all within the last year when it slowly began to interrupt more daily activities. Mind sharp as a tack, she was firm in her opinions and would let you know what they were (ever hear the phrase "Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and having them thank you for the trip"? She could do that.). She read voraciously, watched all the Penn State and Steelers football games, enjoyed George Carlin (which made Todd finally relax around her!). She always greeted someone new with "It's good to know you." Being at her cottage was a comfort, both impeccably furnished yet brimming with a life full of character and a story behind every piece.
My favorite times with her were the nights I spent before Christmas or the stops I'd make on my way to or from Pittsburgh, where it was just the two of us. Thanksgivings for many years were at the country club with a smattering of different friends and my grandparents' favorite waitress. Dotty knew everyone and they all respected her. She always told me how well I had done getting - and keeping - a good job and later a good husband. I wish I remembered more of those moments, but I never took them seriously, always wishing for more.
The hardest part about losing her is the tremendous regret I have for not calling and visiting more. I believe she knew I thought about her often and I hope she didn't fault me too much for my periods of lax communication. In truth, I took it for granted that she would always be around - death was not something that crossed my mind as a possibility for us. She never seemed ill or frail to me, she never asked for pity or help and was unceasingly positive.
I think about her constantly now. Much of the furniture I grew up with in south/central PA and New Hampshire is now in my house. Her jewelry is on my dresser. Her favorite moose mug is my daily coffee mug. Her blue-glass lamp is on my desk. Books on the shelf. Chair and table in the living room. Mutts on the wall.
Perhaps she would scoff at my tears these past months, wonder at my reluctance to tell anyone she died. I wish I could turn 30 feeling proud of my accomplishments, but instead it will be a reflection on all I haven't done or could have done better. Some things you are never too old to do - visit more states, go fishing, learn to knit more than a straight line - but you can't go back and tell your grandmother you loved her and call her more. Tears won't change that, but they will keep coming.