Angel. That’s what my great aunt always calls me. I think sometimes about calling her and recording her voice saying that to me so I can always hear it. The same thing I wish I had done with my grandmother, May, calling me Shug.
One of the times I miss my grandmother most is when I’m cooking dinner and sipping wine. I often used to call her then for a short visit, just to be held by her voice, to hear her endearments, to hear her say “stay sweet” when we said goodbye.
We were at the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado when things really started going wrong for her in Georgia, when she had that first broken hip and then small stroke.
And now she and the Sand Dunes are always connected for me. They give me a lump in my throat. The beauty and miracle of that place and their bigness paired with the bigness of beginning to lose her and the miracle of her unconditional love.
Adam was riding his motorcycle down to the Dunes the day I learned she wasn’t doing well. He was supposed to text when he left and again when he got to Buena Vista.
I didn’t hear from him and my mind started doing that thing I try not to let it do—run down the road of doom, of him somewhere by the side of the road on a mangled motorcycle. When I finally heard from him, all was fine and he had just forgotten.
But all wasn’t fine inside of me. My heart was breaking as my grandmother, my greatest love and life’s cheerleader was breaking down.
She left a ring to me. On days I want her by my side I wear it as a way to bring her along on my day’s adventures. That’s the value of it to me—this thing I can attach to myself, this little piece of her that lived close to her skin, on her hands and fingers that I loved.
I look at my hands today and see the same crepey skin I used to love on the backs of her hands and her mother’s hands and on my own mom’s. I remember rubbing my fingers lightly over it, gently pushing on the blue veins that stood out.
When I first see my own wrinkly blue-veined skin, I recoil and think it looks like old people skin. But then I remember hands looking just like this, hands I loved more than anything on earth. I vow to love and honor my own aging hands for the people who will love my hands the same way I loved hers.