Three weeks ago my grandma had a stroke. Yes, the news upset me- but I wasn't too worried. Nana had already suffered a few strokes, coupled with at least two heart attacks and more bouts with cancer than I care to remember. Nana, in my mind, was never really going to die. She was the survivor of all survivors. But then- a week later, she did. My nana died. My Nana.
Nana contracted pneumonia in the hospital, was rushed to intensive care and then her heart just stopped. I didn't get to say goodbye- I didn't get to tell her how much she has meant to me and how much she would be missed. My father however, sitting next to her tiny withered body held up his computer to her empty eyes while I, stuck in Italy, waved and tried to smile while I told her how much I loved her.
Five minutes later, she passed away.
I would have given anything to be next to her, holding her hand…but it all just happened so fast. I was told that she had waited to see me. Of course my Nana waited to see me- she was my biggest fan- she loved me more than anyone else she had ever met. This favoritism was common knowledge in my family and something she never had any qualms about being made known. The general response when one of the other grandchildren inquired was “well Morgan was the first grandkid, there’s a special bond there.” And I do believe it was that- that I was the first- I don't think I was the favorite because of what I do or who I am- but I took that unconditional overflowing love and did what I could with it, knowing that I would never find another soul on this earth willing or able to love me as much as Nana did.
I could relay her life story or describe how beautiful and selfless she was. I have a million memories running through my head- some of which make me cry, some of which make me smile, and some of which make me roll will laughter. But I think that when someone we love dies, what we need to do is take the lessons they have taught us and move forward in our lives- trying to make them proud- every day.
There were really only two things my grandma would have asked of me in her passing. One: to finally start eating meat and Two: to find a “nice Jewish boy” (preferably doctor) and get married.
It would be easier if nana wanted me to become president of the U.S., win the Nobel Peace Prize, or become an astronaut. Unfortunately, her love was too great to ask me to accomplish anything- I was already perfect in her eyes.
In losing Nana, I lost one of the few stable things in my life. Nana was my rock- my anchor. I always knew where to find her, I always knew that she’d be that person on the other end of the phone elated to hear my voice. She was always proud of me- for everything. In losing Nana, I lost my scrabble partner (although she had been known to cheat), I lost a sense of anxiety- always wanting her to improve her own living circumstances, I lost one of my best friends and I lost an enormous part of my past- of myself.
I could look at Nana and know where I got my nose, my height, my stubbornness and my humor. What I didn't get from Nana though, was her selflessness, forgiveness and her unconditional- I mean really unconditional love. I didn't get her devotion to her family- regardless of how angry they made her at times, and I didn't inherit her ability to see the good in people- as bad as they were. So I suppose that is my lesson- that is what I am supposed to take away from my Nana- try to emulate all the good she brought into the world. Even though, at the end of the day, it’s not what she would have wanted- because like I said, I was already perfect in her eyes.
If I were to truly commemorate my Nana, I would sit around watching reruns of I Love Lucy and The Golden Girls. I would go on a cruise and spend ¾ of my time and all of my money in the casino- feeding coins to the slot machines. I would waste away hours in the kitchen cooking potato blintzes (making a few cheese blintzes on the side for Tyler) and tart tatin for my dad. I would order pizza loaded with onion and garlic (or as nana called it in her Brooklyn accent she never managed to lose, Gaalik) and I would spend as much time with my family as humanly possible- taking pictures of them with one of her disposable cameras that always seemed to have “one or two pictures left,” giving them huge suffocating hugs and wet kisses leaving both crimson lipstick stains and bits of food on the cheeks of those that I love.
I miss nana. My life without her in it is emptier. Palpably emptier. And as much as I tell myself that she is in a better place or that she isn’t suffering anymore- I regret that she never got to see me get married, that I didn't grant her the pleasure of meeting her great-grandkids. I have a million and one regrets and nothing seems to make me feel better.
I just keep telling myself that she really is there on the other end of the phone when I call- she just doesn't hear the ringing because she forgot, once again, to put her hearing aids in.