When I was growing up, I got headaches all the time. Some were functional headache – a pain, but I could still go about my daily business. Others, though, were migraines, and they were totally debilitating. I would be down for the count when I had a migraine, sensitive to light and sound, and often extremely nauseous. In Junior High and High School, I would estimate that I got a headache 3-4 days a week, and usually one of those was a migraine. It was a tough way to go through school. Once I got to college, it was like a switch flipped in my head, and while I still got headaches, they were less frequent and far less intense. I maybe got three migraines a year in college. In the past few years, they have become almost non-existent, and when I do get them, Advil works right away to dull the pain. So, you can imagine my surprise when, out of nowhere two Sundays ago, I suddenly got a horrible migraine. I’d been out shopping and walking around all day with my friend Lisa, who lives only a block and a half away from me. My headache literally came on during my walk home from her apartment. It was so intense so quickly that I barely made it up the five flights of stairs to my apartment before the nausea came. Lying in bed with my fingers pressing into the area of my forehead above my left eye, I tried to back to how I dealt with all those migraines in high school. Then I suddenly realized: it was my Grandma.
My Grandma would get me at school when the headaches were so bad I couldn’t sit through class anymore, and when we would get home she would lay me down on the couch with a warm cloth on my head. Often, she would sit down next to my head and rub my temples for what seemed like hours. There were times when I was sure I’d fallen asleep, and I would wake up to her patiently rubbing my head. She would drop whatever it was she was doing when I wasn’t feeling well, (which was a lot back then), and I appreciated that so much. Her hands always felt cool against my skin, and her touch always made me feel a little bit better. She was also an excellent back scratcher. She always had perfect, long nails that were ideal for getting rid of itches, and she would scratch our backs until my mom would tell her that it was enough. I always wanted my nails to look as nice as hers did, but I never could get them to grow that long without breaking. I still can’t, although I am still trying.
My Grandma was the most amazing cook – she could make anything, and it tasted amazing. I remember one time at a restaurant I tried bread pudding and liked it, and a few days after I’d mentioned that to her, she made me her own batch that was infinitely better. She always made everyone their favorite meal and dessert on their birthdays, or even if you just asked nicely. She loved making a meal if it made one of her kids or grandkids happy. When I moved away to college, I missed her food, but mostly I just missed her. She would send me a card every week or two with a little update about what was going on in her life. It didn’t matter that by the time I’d gotten her card I’d already talked to her on the phone, I’d still devour every word she wrote. I kept every card she sent me since I moved out. Most of them are in a shoebox in my closet at my parents’ house, although I keep the last card she wrote with me: it was for my birthday two years ago.
She was a great listener and one of my biggest supporters. When I would get in trouble with my parents, she would always listen to my side of the story and nod sympathetically before she told me, nicely, that I was way out of line. She used to drive me to my voice lessons, piano lessons, and softball practices before I had my license. When I got my license, she always let me borrow her car. After school my senior year of high school, she would pick me up and we would go home and watch TV together while we ate whatever yummy snack she had prepared for us. I would “help” her prepare dinner for us every night, hoping that some of her cooking skills would rub off on me. She was at every recital, choir concert, final softball game and graduation I had, and she would tell me I was awesome no matter how many bad notes I hit or softballs I didn’t.
When I was trying to decide whether or not I should move to New York, I had a lot of pros and cons that I was weighing. Was it really worth moving away from my family and friends and boyfriend just for a job? Did I really want to leave Southern California for a place that I’d only spent six days visiting? More than anything, I wanted to talk to my grandma and bounce my thoughts off of her. I spent many sleepless nights trying to come to some sort of decision, with no luck. Finally, one evening after work I drove out to quiet green lawn where she and my great-grandmother lay, and I sat down and told her everything. I felt better after, and the next day I woke up knowing that she would tell me to go to New York, and that she was proud of me for having the courage to take the chance.
I’ve been thinking about her more than ever lately as I think about other decisions looming in the not-too-distant future. I know that no matter what I decide, she will support me 100%. She passed away two years ago last Saturday, and this Friday would be her 80th birthday. Happy birthday Gramma. I love you.