No, this isn't a rant. Just thoughts. My Grandma passed away last night. It wasn't entirely unexpected, due to her age, frailty, and advanced Alzheimer's. But the change from "not great but solidly stable" to "downhill spiral" was rather sudden and I'm still kind of poleaxed. Some of you may remember my status checkin from the hospital on Christmas, that was about 36 hours after things started. The last major change in her state was shortly after my Grandpa passed away several years ago. I've always half wondered how much was really Alzheimer's and how much losing him made her just not want to be in the present any more, which I can understand.
My emotions are waffling all over the place from mostly numb/shocked, to writing these words making me cry for the first time. I've got plane tickets to fly back to Cali on Weds morning, and will be staying with family until Sunday night. We're not having a funeral per se, she's going to be cremated like Grandpa was, so this is more of just a pack huddle of support. We'll have a large, actual memorial sometime in the Spring when her garden is blooming and people can travel out for it.
I spent today "working" from home. I put that in quotes not because I was incapable, but because both my old team I am finishing legacy projects with, and my new "agile pod" are full of such awesome people that when I gave them the news and let them know I'd be out the second half of the week they basically all went "OMG DO WHATEVER YOU NEED, LET US KNOW IF WE CAN HELP. EVERYONE TRYING TO GIVE HER ASSIGNMENTS: FUCK OFF, WE'LL HANDLE THEM." So I've spent the day on the couch under my Ninja Blankie, with cats sitting on me (because they're good about knowing that stuff), kntting another Fox-in-Sock, and trying to sort through my feelings.
What I kept coming back to, annoyingly, was: "I want a peanut butter sandwich."
Most of the day I thought this was my brain trying to distract me or a random reaction to re-starting the low-carb diet. But after a while I realized it wasn't: it was actually the purest emotional reaction I could have.
My parents bought the land plot next to my grandparents' house, built their own and moved us in when I was two and a half. I spent my entire childhood running back and forth to Grandma & Grandpa's house, carrying messages, getting or bringing a cup of whatever for dinner, being babysat, programming the VCR clock for them, or just hanging out. The land in between the two properties was my Mom and Grandma's communal garden, where I grew up playing in the dirt, pulling carrots, stalking gophers, and gaining a lifelong hatred of corn worms. The far side of my grandparents' property was a stand of pine trees where my cousins and I spent years climbing, building forts, playing on tire swings, and hunting imaginary deer with decorated stick "spears".
Anyway. Peanut butter sandwich.
PBJ is a staple food for most kids, as it's one of the vaguely healthy things any kid except the pickest or allergic will eat. My grandmother knew this well (especially with my cousins being vegetarian) so it was a usual lunch at their house. It wasn't just PBJ though, it was SPECIAL PBJ. And not just because Grandma made it, although that helps. It made me realize that a lot of my current lifestyle habits I've embraced or am trying to come from her and I'm helping keep them going.
She always baked her own bread on weekends, and kept it in an ancient tupperware breadbox because they stopped making them about 50 years ago because nobody made their own bread any more. (They may have started re-making them in this new era of bread machines, but that's what I remember.)
The peanut butter, like her cream cheese, cheddar, almonds and various other things, were ordered through a neighborhood co-op that bought from local growers and crafters rather than through a chain grocery store. I've recently, thanks to FB, found a similar one in my area and recently signed up for a year.
Because the peanut butter was naturally made and not full of preservatives and softening oil additives, it was a little harder to spread than the commercial stuff. So she would always put a thin layer of butter on the PB bread first, to let it spread on smoothly instead of tearing the bread up. I grew up with the combo and loving it, and didn't understand until I hit grade school that people thought it was "weird". This led me to realize that there are probably all kinds of flavor combos that people think are "weird" and are actually delicious because they just never tried them. This has made me adventurous both in dining and cooking, and not afraid to try new things.
And the jam... oh the jam. Most people love strawberry jam as the quintessential PBJ component, but I disagree. Grandma always used raspberry jam, which she canned herself every year from her stand of raspberry bushes in the backyard. I grew up helping pick them even though I was terrified of the bees that constantly swarmed over them (they hate me for no good reason, even the normally docile ones, but that's a story for another time). I learned to grow and preserve my own food, and I learned to face down my fears and potential pains in order to accomplish something I really wanted.
What did Grandma bring to my life? She taught me to run around in the sun, play in the mud, appreciate and respect nature, seek sustainable resources, be knowledgeable and self-sufficient for myself and my family, treasure life skills others write off as "old-fashioned", to laugh, to experiment, to respect tradition but not be bound by it, and to fight my inner demons in the name of love and family.
All wrapped up in a peanut butter sandwich.