In all of my sickness-induced television viewing, I stumbled upon a bunch of U2 videos being played on some music station that I’m not cool enough to frequent. They played a few videos from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Many of the songs on that album reflect the loss of Bono’s father, and because of the timing of the album, they also coincided with my grandma’s decline and death.
So, like, there are some U2 songs that make me cry.
My grandma died five and a half years ago, which seems impossible. I think about her everyday. I was lucky enough to grow up five minutes from my grandparents’ house, and my brother and I spent so much time there. It wasn’t perfect – they bickered, my brother and I often wanted to be somewhere else as we got older – but all the imperfect stuff falls away.
I remember witnessing my grandpa sneaking a macaroon out of the cookie jar at about 4:30, knowing that my grandma would be furious if she caught him. That cookie jar is now on my kitchen counter, and it always makes me think about that first realization that grown-ups could be naughty, too.
I remember hulling strawberries with my grandma, watching as she sliced them with a silver knife, plopping them in a green FireKing dish and covering them with sugar.
My grandma taught us every card game under the sun. One of my greatest joys is the discovery that Mr. Wonderful loves games, too, and that I inherited my grandma’s sweet ability to kick the shit out of an opponent with absolutely no remorse. She played to win, even against a 5-year-old, and I respect that. All of us grandkids used to gang up on her in Uno – so much so that we renamed it Beat Grandma. She still won, but all of her grandkids are card sharks with a proud heritage.
Grandma died on a Friday night, the week before my brother was set to go to Wales for a semester. The funeral was Wednesday, and he flew out Thursday.
I told one of the church ladies who prepared the funeral luncheon that it was almost like she knew what she was doing. The church lady, who also happened to my 7th grade algebra teacher, looked me square in the eye and said, “Your grandma always knew what she was doing.”
We knew that she was holding on for all of us – for the boy she’d been married to for 69 years, for the son who got stranded in the Denver airport and got to the hospital an hour too late. I think letting go was really difficult because she loved us all so much. But I believe in my heart of hearts that the last thing she heard was laughter.
My mom was fanning her, and my brother and I sat with our grandpa. My aunt, dad and cousin were in the hall.
I got my brother to tell grandpa about his trip preparations. My parents’ dog is a bit of an ass, and he gets really bent out of shape when luggage comes out. He hates being left behind.
When my brother got his suitcase out to pack for Wales, the dog went ape. So, my brother made a big show of “Oh, I changed my mind! I’m putting the suitcase away!” And the dog was pleased.
The suitcase came out again later under the cover of a giant blanket, but the dog was clueless and happy. My grandpa gave his deep belly laugh that could fill a room – he threw his head back, it was glorious, really – and that’s when the machines started making noise.
I’d never been present when someone left this world, and it’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live. It was very quiet, and still.
It has taken me a long time to move past the actual moment, the machines, the guttural noise my dad made, the flurry of activity after. It’s taken me a while to let the imperfect stuff fall away.
But I still love this song, in spite of and because of how I associate it to that time. Stay safe tonight.