Ten Years Ago

this week was the worst week of my life.

On February 13, I received a phone call from my mother letting me know that my grandmother had passed away. I adored my grandmother. She taught me everything I know about football. She had fallen ill the previous summer and my sister went to Minneapolis to help out and then bring her back to Florida (amazing that my Minnesota native grandmother agreed to that move, but at 95, I think she decided it was the right thing to do). The story is that she brought Sam Anne II on the plane with her. After we got Sam, Phil and I found a stuffed puppy that looked remarkably like Sam and sent it to her, I have a great picture of Sam checking out Sam Anne II before she was put in the box. I flew in for a day at Thanksgiving to see her and came back for Christmas with Sam. That is a story in and of itself.

My father does not like animals. He does not like shedding. He does not like them in his space, etc., etc. Sam was almost three years old when my grandma moved in with my parents. Sam had never been in their house, but my grandmother was fascinated with Sam and she asked lots and lots of questions. I’m still not sure how it came about, but apparently Dad gave her the impression that Sam had been to the house many times and was much adored. So, that Christmas was a fascinating situation. He had two choices. Option A: let Sam come to the house; Option B: admit to his 95 year old mother (who was barely 5 feet tall and maybe 100 lbs soaking wet) that he lied. My father chose option A. Who would have imagined that my 60 some year old father would be more worried about admitting he lied than about having a dog in his house.

P met her Christmas day and she flirted with him. She really, really liked him.

She had congestive heart failure and had a bad episode in early January that landed her in a nursing home near my folks. She needed 24/7 care that my parents just weren’t able to provide.

And then she was gone.

And I was in Alabama and it felt like a million miles away from my family. P was living in Virginia so all I had was Sam. That’s not to suggest that only having Sam was a bad thing, but the poor dog wasn’t really sure how to handle all the tears. I considered driving home. But I was convinced that they weren’t going to do anything, so there was no need for me to do that.

And they didn’t. And they haven’t.

P drove back to Alabama to be with me because I was a total mess.

My grandmother would have turned 96 on February 18, 2001.

P and I are NASCAR fans, so that Sunday we decided to watch the Daytona 500.

I’m pretty sure if you’re a NASCAR person, you know where this is going.

I know a lot of people hated Earnhardt, Big E, the Intimidator. I didn’t. I loved his swagger. I loved his attitude. I loved the go big or go home approach. I remember watching him drive that day. I remember watching him guard that lead for his boys. I saw that car hit the wall and I knew he was gone. I knew it in my soul even though they didn’t announce it right away. And the crying started again. I cannot believe it has been ten years.

Here’s the thing, though, I’ve felt my grandmother and seen her presence in my life since she passed. A few months after she passed I met a person online who wrote some fantastic stories that I liked. We corresponded online for awhile and then for some reason I needed to mail her something. My grandmother’s apartment number was 1605. The first part of my new friend’s street address: 1605. And then I found out her real name some time later. Her first name is the same as my grandmother’s best friend’s first name. Ten years later, she and I are still friends and she’s probably trying to figure out whether to yell at me for bringing this up or laugh that I still believe we met because my grandmother orchestrated it.

Last summer, my son met an older boy at VBS who he took an instant liking to. I really liked the boy, too. He’s been a really good influence on Ben. Katie thinks he’s one of the greatest non-related people she knows. His birthday? February 18, 2001. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this young man entered Ben’s life and started setting an example that Ben wants to follow. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first time Katie has ever taken to someone instantly is this young man. So, thanks Grandma.

I miss you. I love you.

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