Most mornings I would wake up to a steaming, aromatic cup of tea sitting on my white hand-carved dresser. Other mornings I would wake up to a delicious French Vanilla cappuccino, straight from the Amish in Smicksburg, Pennsylvania. I’d wake up to the smell of tea and coffee, bacon and pancakes. Sometimes she’d surprise me with my favorite, French toast with bananas and sausage. Then ovarian cancer happened. My grandmother, who I have always called Nana, had cancer for over three years before it became so apparent to her family that they forced her to have treatment. Chemotherapy didn’t work and she asked to be sent home on hospice so she could be with family. Then she died.
“TOUCHDOWN FORD CITY!” the speakers blare. The purple and gold pom poms go flying. The cheerleaders do their toe touches, pikes, back handsprings and aerials. Up go the flyers in the mounts, the basket tosses and the scorpion poses. The fans in the stands are on their feet, jumping up and down, cheering and clapping. “SABERS! SABERS! SABERS!” The roar is so loud it’s echoing around the stadium. I look to the middle of the left side on the main section of bleachers. There she is, not looking at the score board or at the players; Nana’s looking at me, smiling, clapping her hands. I know now that she wasn’t cheering for the team, she was cheering for me. Cheerleading was a huge part of my childhood. Practice for hours every day after school, running laps and performing our routines and cheers over and over and over again. The bus rides to the games every Saturday, then Friday when I was in middle school.
The spice cupcakes Nana made every cheerleading competition were always the squad’s favorite. I remember one time, right before I found out she was sick, she lost her balance at a competition. She was balancing three cupcake carriers, like the waitress she used to be, then collapsed. She didn’t lose consciousness and when she was steady again, all the girls were looking at the cupcakes. “The lid was on it. Those cupcakes are way too heavenly to waste.” Meanwhile, I was humiliated, angry even. I didn’t want everyone to know she was sick. I realize now that I blamed her for it.
No-bake cookies are oats, butter, cocoa, sugar, milk, vanilla, a dash of salt, and peanut butter. Some families have certain desserts they make for holidays; my family had a dessert we made because it sounded tasty. I always tried to take them off the no-stick wax paper; All chocolatey and gooey, I couldn’t resist. Nana and I would be in the kitchen, at the island. She would let me make them by myself, or let me think I was anyways. She told me the ingredients, showed me where on the measuring cup to fill it up, and even let me turn on the stove. When it was time to stir it all together she told me which wooden spoon to use. Finally, they would be done and I got to scoop them onto the sheets. The cookies were never the same size or a perfect circle, but she never complained.
To this day, I make no-bake cookies on a whim. I don’t enjoy breakfast much anymore, but I drink Lipton tea and Amish French Vanilla cappuccino, that my Pennsylvania family sends me, every morning, in my Nana’s mugs. I bake spice cupcakes when I miss her, and for my sister’s school events. I do these things because I didn’t appreciate her as much as I should have when she was here.
Nana loved Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, and Survivor. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night you would find us on the couch in the living room, propped up on several pillows with a bowl of butter pecan ice cream with banana slices. I’ve never missed a season of any of them, even after she died. I didn’t really recall most of the early seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, so I’m currently watching the series from the beginning. I’m on Season Five, Episode 2.
My mother and I both drive Nissan Altimas because that’s the car my Nana had. She’s had Nissans longer than either of us can remember. We drive them because we’re very sentimental and we trust what she trusted.
I recall a lot of little things about my grandma that she used to do or that we did together. I could write about it for hours. I mentioned these because they are the things that I do in my everyday life. I could tell you about the jewelry box of hers that I treasure or the velvet jacket that was passed down to me. I could even tell you about the songs we always sung together on the radio or the things we both disliked. However, these are the things that I do on a daily basis that make me wish she was here.
As I get older I miss her more. There’s things I want to ask her about, advice I need from her. I need to know that she’s proud of me for overcoming the obstacles and going to college. When I have kids I know this is only going to get worse. She’s not just a phone call away anymore. So I do these things to feel her near me, to have a little piece of her around me.
When I have children, I will bake spice cupcakes with Nana’s special homemade icing for their school events and when they have their friends over. I will teach them how to make no-bake cookies. Every morning when they wake up, they will have a cup of Lipton tea or Amish French vanilla cappuccino. I will watch Grey’s Anatomy and Survivor and NCIS with them. Even more than that, my children will know who their great-grandmother was. They will know that she was an amazing lady who I loved and who provided motivation for me to get my life together even after she passed. And they will know that I love them, just as she loved me.