I was so mad at her.
Well, maybe not mad. But I was clearly aggravated.
I was graduating from high school on my 18th birthday. A high school I’d unceremoniously learned I wouldn’t be returning to 2 years ago to the day. This day was clearly a big deal to me. I wasn’t quite sure where my life was headed during the summer of 2008. Fast forward a few short years later, I’d managed to graduate from that same high school with honors, while finessing a full academic scholarship from the best HBCU in the country.
And here was my grandma, sitting in the kitchen, IN HER PAJAMAS.
“Ma, get ready.”
“I’m not feeling it today, baby.”
I wasn’t hearing that. It was my day. I deserved to be selfish. “Granny, go put on some clothes. Please?! Graduation starts in an hour.”
“I told you I’m not going. Standing there arguing with me, you’re gonna be late.”
I gave it one more try. “Ma. Please? For me? Please.”
No dice. “I’m just not feeling good today, Jet. But you should go. Don’t be late.”
And so I left. I gave her a kiss and I told her I’d see her after the ceremonies, diploma in tow. Which I did. But as gratifying as that day was, having her see that diploma handed to me would’ve made it that much sweeter.
I’ve lost folks I’ve cared deeply for. I lost two of my grandparents and one of my closest childhood friends well before my granny made her transition. But losing her continues to sting in a way those others haven’t. For some reason, it made death far more tangible to me than it’d been to me before. She was my superhero, the closest thing to immortality I thought I’d ever see. My grandma’s health started to deteriorate fairly quickly; she was all but fine the summer before I moved to DC for school, but two years later, her memory was all but shot, and 6 months later, she was in hospice.
But one of my favorite stories about her comes from that 6 months later. My sister calls me, telling me they’re moving my grandma to hospice, preparing me for the worst. I wait 24 hours before I call my mom, just because I wasn’t sure how well she was doing. Here I am, in the midst of a job fair at school, thinking I’d make a quick call to my mom just to check up. We talked for maybe 45 seconds before my mom makes a suggestion: “I’m gonna put Granny on the phone. Just talk to her. She might not respond.”
“Okay,” I tell her. I didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t bear hearing nothingness coming from my grandmother’s lips.
“Hey, Jet! How are you?!”
The liveliness and spirit that defined my grandmother’s voice was there. She was supposed to be dying, but she sounded … alive. It lasted maybe all of 30 seconds, but those 30 seconds made me ridiculously happy. For the briefest second, I thought the doctors were wrong. There was no chance my grandma was dying. I could be wrong, but from my perspective, she gave everything she had in her just to talk to me that day. And I’ll cherish that forever.