About 30 minutes ago, I got a call no one wants to get. It was my adopted mom, Mama Ann, calling to tell me that her mom, my adopted Granny Wofford, was dying.
My life has been woven in and out of their family for years. It was in high school, 25 years ago, when I met Mama Ann's two sons, S. and K., who became two of my best friends. We were all on Academic Team together--they were quiet and I was outgoing, and I was determined to make these two boys talk to me. They were both incredibly intelligent young men, and when you peeled away the layers of reserve, shyness and teen awkwardness, quite funny and engaging.
Throughout college, I stayed in touch with S. and K. both, though S. and I grew much closer over time. When S. and I were both in graduate school (he in New York City, me in Atlanta) I would fly up to see him. I helped him through his coming out. He helped me through a couple of failed relationships. We lived together through a terrible car crash that involved a truck load of (I believe drunken) teens hitting us from behind and knocking us 75 feet down the road.
K. moved to California, then back to the East Coast for school. Then back to California. I kept track of him through S. and even had dinner with him once in the late 90s when I was on a business trip to San Francisco.
During this time of college and graduate school, I started working at the local big department store in the small town where I live. S. and K.'s grandmother, Granny Wofford, also worked there, so I met her and we became friends. The hubs also worked there, which is how we met and, later, fell in love. When we married, Mama Ann and Granny Wofford hosted a shower for us. When my grandmother died, they came to the funeral home.
Later, S. and K.'s younger sister, M., also started working at the department store, in the same department as me. Like S. and K., she became my adopted younger sibling and I enjoyed getting to know her better.
As fate would have it, when the hubs and I married, we wound up moving into an apartment directly across the street from the apartment where Granny Wofford lived. For the first two years of our marriage, we made the trip across the street many a time for dinner with our adopted Granny. She came to our house, as well, and even after we moved across town to our home, we would still go for dinners. I loved visiting with her and it was a way for me to keep up with the grandkids and what they were doing since due to time, distance and life, I had grown apart from them all, including S. who I especially missed.
Though she worked well into her 80s, over the years, Granny grew more frail. Several years ago, her apartment building caught on fire, and after that, she moved in with Mama Ann. The distance now was much greater between us, and it was hard to make the time to visit, but we continued to consistently send holiday cards and saw her occasionally. Mama Ann would keep us updated on any major health issues.
Last year, Granny took a turn for the worse. Mama Ann called and said she was starting to make arrangements in preparation for the inevitable. She asked if the hubs would be a pallbearer when the time came, because he was like a grandson. She later called and asked if I could help care for Granny during my unemployment. I declined, because at the time, I had interviewed for four jobs and just knew I was going to get one. I didn't get one of the jobs, but I am not sure I could have cared for Granny regardless. I did that for my grandmother before she died. It hurts.
Last year, I also reconnected with S. through Facebook. He came home for Christmas (he currently lives in California, as well). I had lunch with him and his partner. It was good. He has been successful and his success has afforded him the ability to help his grandmother and he was able to say his goodbyes.
This morning, Mama Ann called. The hospice nurses are giving Granny a week or so. She is in and out of life. Mama Ann said Granny told her yesterday that she is ready to go home. She has had a long life, full of some pain, but full of much, much more love. I love her for adopting me and the hubs as her grandchildren, though I know she loved S., K. and M. more than her life. She talked about them all the time. She was so proud of them. I hope they all know that. And I thank them for sharing Granny with us. Go in peace, Granny. We love you.