Seven years ago, I was working on a governor's race in Virginia. It is common for staffers or volunteers who are working on campaigns to be housed by friends of the campaign or candidate. I got very lucky and stayed with a group of humans so wonderful, I still think of the two daughters as my little sisters. The Heinitz Family is amazing and I miss them! Hi, guys!
As a way of thanking them for putting up with me for the month I worked on the campaign, I set about to make them dinner. It was a warm and humid evening in May and I was running all over their kitchen getting things ready and sweating my ass off when my mother called.
"Stephanie, you need to get on a plane. Your grandmother is not well and we think the end may be near."
So, I called Ron, who immediately booked me a ticket out of National Airport in DC, finished making dinner, threw all my junk into my suitcase and headed for the airport. I got off the plane, into my mom's car and went straight to see my grandmother, who my mother felt would not make it to morning.
I dropped my bags and walked into her room. "Grandma. Wake up. It is me. I am here."
She looked up at me.
"Stephanie, What. Did. You. Do. To. Your. HAIR?"
Um, hi? I just rushed her from DC where only hours earlier I was making dinner for some very nice people and it is May and it is hot and so my sweaty greasy hair is up in messy bun but I am here now to see you and this is what might be your last words to me ever?
No matter that she was having trouble breathing and she was under hospice care and showing all the signs of an immediate end. My hair.
Thankfully, she made it through that night and I got to spend the next week at her side with her sister, Nancy. She would roll her eyes at us when we insisted she eat. She would laugh and cry and I hold those memories very closely to my heart. She would really only eat if I or my uncle Mike were feeding her.
In fact, I would chide her and tell her stories while I fed her in hopes I would keep her distracted so she would eat more. I feel strongly that I get my bubbly, life of the party personality from her and my grandpa. She was always charming the pants off of people. I like to think I got some of that.
But as I chattered away, she stopped me. Mid sentence.
"Stephanie. TOO. MANY. WORDS."
Pot? Meet Kettle.
When I had to go back to finish my work on the campaign, I said goodbye to her for the last time. She would be gone in the next week. That was seven years ago.
I often think about calling her to tell something funny or to send her a picture of me with my hair down, make up done and in a pretty dress. She never got to meet Zachary, who I think would have made her heart grow three sizes. I think about her every time I smell or see a gardenia because she loved them and would float the gentle flowers in bowls around the house.
I miss her deeply but know that her love still reaches through to me still. I am also pretty sure she still yells at me for biting my finger nails or putting my hair behind my ears, too.