A few nights before Grandma died, I went to Meijer for the first time. My mom and aunt shepherded me through the store as we each stocked up on items needed from home.
A contact case, toothbrush, deodorant. Pajamas and underwear.
Mom stayed out at the farm all week. I stopped by after work each day: caring for hospice patients and then the jolt of our family traversing the same road. I'd set my work bag on the floor, kick off my shoes, and hover the line between granddaughter and hospice social worker. I knew all too well the day grew nearer.
The past weekend my cousins Clara and Emily had flown out from California. Freshly out of the hospital and on the hospice program, Grandma was elated to be back in her home after a two month absence of treatment and rehabilitation. Cousins and great-aunts and family friends traveled far and wide to spend time with her.
Seeing her renewed energy- seeing her in her element with company gathered all around her- I half hoped time was on our side.
But when Sunday came, Clara and Emily said their goodbyes and talked of coming back for the family reunion, another month away, I couldn't ignore the signs. She'd make it until Saturday or Sunday, I thought and then tucked it down deep in case I was wrong. They couldn't change their flights anyway.
One week, I screamed inside. I hugged my cousins and hoped their next flight back would not be for our grandmother's funeral. I prayed for more time.
Each day I hoped I misread the signs yet could find no such solace.
Thursday night I sensed I should not drive the 45 minutes home. Wednesday Grandma's hand had faltered as she ministered the sign of peace on my forehead with holy water. I held her hand in place and moved my head to complete the process.
I couldn't drive home but staying turned out to be more complicated. The week prior, Grandma asked me to sleep over the same day she came home from the hospital. She liked the idea of various family members tucked in around her house. Mom and I slept on the pull out couch across from her hospital bed in the living room.
But now Grandma required volunteer night nurses who stayed in the living room, the spare bedrooms claimed by other family members. Not to worry- a second cousin opened up her home for any overflow guests. Which only left the problem of not having anything I needed.
The country boasts a different way of life. I made my decision to stay late in the evening- not late by most people's standards but too late for Walgreens to be open. Or any other store we thought of.
Meijer's lights glowed garishly bright. The aisles have acquired an orange tinge in my memory. The store mesmerized me with All The Things and the strange people shopping past 10 at night. As if we had any room to talk.
I wandered the aisles, urgency pressing me forward. Make a decision. How it looks isn't important. These thoughts swirled through my head before being discarded. I could control the pajama selection process.
I'm not naming names but the snoring kept me awake that night. My overloaded mind welcomed insomnia right on in. The next day I called in to work. Friday night I stayed up with Grandma, administering her medications and holding her hand while she slept, more for me than her.
I slipped the pajama pants on for a couple of hours of sleep once Mom woke up and took over my vigil.
And then again, I wore the pajama pants Saturday night while I sat next to Grandma, knowing I should go to bed but unable to do so. When the funeral home arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the thin fabric wrapped around me while I sat outside in a daze.
Later I slept on the pull out couch with my aunt. Grandma's hospital bed lay empty across from us. I kept waking up, poised to hear evidence she was still there.
We prepare for a death but we're never ready.
I still wear the camisole which has never kept things in their proper place and the overly roomy pajama bottoms. I haven't shopped at Meijer since.
Grief is the sum of these moments. I write to remember those days and explore the griefbursts since. To remind myself I'm still her granddaughter.
I am still her granddaughter. More than that, I'm my grandmother's granddaughter and my mother's daughter. Despite our differences, their character and personalities are indelible parts of me.
And while I know my mom will not be here forever, she is here now. In her, I see Grandma. And then again, I see me.
Five years passed and only God knows how many years remain between us and heaven. This weekend I honor Earlene Petit and her chicken noodle soup and open table and sprinkles and "where's your sweater?" and faith and ever ready smile.