Those words burned into my head as I sat stunned and alone in the bathroom, reading a text message minutes after Grandma had passed away, who had followed my mother into death 48 hours apart. I remember being blown away that it said losses. As in, more than one loss. That can't be common. But it was reality. I'll rewind the clock to 1:00 pm on the afternoon of Saturday, April 14th, to fully explain the devastation that was this particular weekend.
Sonia had taken Antonio to the store as I sat home and put Nate down for a nap on an otherwise pedestrian Saturday afternoon, with thoughts of Antonio's 3rd birthday party the following weekend starting to crowd my brain. I noticed my Grandma Helen calling on my cell, and instantly I worried. While we did talk often, when she called me, there was always a reason for it. Turns out she hadn't heard from my mother. And while she was certainly concerned (my mother would call Grandma every morning religiously), she wasn't in panic mode yet. "Maybe she went out and her phone died," I suggested. But regardless, after several more calls to Mom and 45 minutes had gone by, I promised I would stop by her condo "just to check." To save time, I showered before Sonia got home. I remember the water beating on my forehead and wondering if I could be facing a worst case scenario and how I'd handle it. Being a pessimist, I always thought worst case. After getting dressed, I waited by the door and when Sonia showed up with Antonio, I was off, trying not to show my nerves in front of them, kissing them goodbye and forcing a smile.
I was about six at the time when mom was on a ladder outside, cleaning the big window in our living room that faced the street (I should note that this was the last time such a thing happened). Suddenly, the ladder started shaking and in a heap of shrubbery and foliage, she crashed to the ground. It doesn't sound funny but I promise you it was hysterical. Afterward, mom said she was in a lot of pain. But as soon as she looked up and saw my sister's elephant slippers making their way down the stairs, she found herself smiling. Laughter through pain. And with that in mind, a couple of years ago, my sister and brother-in-law invited the family over for St Patrick's Day. Never one to miss a party , Mom and Grandma were of course there an hour before the start time, enjoying food and drink. Grandma wanted to go downstairs but tripped, falling down an entire flight of stairs at age 82. My wife and I got there several minutes later and she was sitting at the dining room table, with an ice pack on her wrist, but looking otherwise unaffected. After hearing what happened, I questioned her sanity. I said, "You're an 82 year old woman who just fell down the stairs who just had heart surgery and whose arm is blowing up like a balloon. You have to go to the hospital NOW." She looked at me in all seriousness and said "but I'm not done with my gin and tonic yet." That fall may have broken her arm. But never her spirit. That's the blood that ran through both of them.
And speaking of heaven, I will end on this note. A few years ago, my nephew Joe asked me if I'd be in heaven when he got old. And I realized that he was starting to understand the finality of death, and it rattled me. So, not wanting to lie to a sweet, innocent little kid, I looked him straight in the eye and said "Kid, not a chance. "