When I was growing up, I had the best grandma anyone could ask for. There are so many good memories from the summers spent with her up in the Okanagan. My dad was the youngest of 6 children, 5 of which had 2 or more children. That left me the youngest of about 15 cousins, and the definite favourite of my grandmother. I remember one summer when my closest cousins, Tyler and Melissa (2 and 4 years older than I), spent 3 weeks with our grandparents. They decided to call me ‘Queen Bossy Snot’ the entire time, and to a 7 year old, it seemed like an eternity! I remember running to my grandma, and she would just shake her head at the other two, telling them that that wasn’t very nice.
I remember grandma running baths for me, and telling me stories every night before bed. Even when my parents and I would arrive in Peachland in the wee hours of the morning, Grandma would be waiting up for us, and never failed to accept my pleas,’Grandma! Grandma! Will you sleep with me?’ She would stay in bed with me until I fell asleep, then move to her room with Grandpa every time. She would invite me to her early morning walks, and let me stir all of the ingredients in whatever she was making. We would sit and do wordsearches until the sun came down, and when we were tired of that, we would play cards and colour in colouring books. I remember thinking, I’ve never seen anyone with so many wrinkles, but her skin was the smoothest I have ever felt. I remember her grey wig and never seeing her without it. I remember swimming in the lake, and feeding the geese. I remember her cooking me whatever I wanted for breakfast, and letting me sit wrapped up in my favourite wool blanket. It was scratchy, but smelled like her, and I loved it.
There are so many memories in that old house. The more I write, the more I remember.
But like every story, there has to be a turning point. Especially when it comes to people getting older. Grandma was very forgetful. So forgetful that she would put a loaf of bread in the linen closet, and soap in the fridge. She would tell the same stories over and over again. After many years of denial, the family discovered that she had severe Alzheimer’s and needed to be treated. We moved her into a home, where she continued happily. After a while, she was convinced that she was on holiday, and sooner than later she didn’t even recognize me. But as soon as I walked into the home, they would ask if I was the infamous Amber that they had heard so much about. I was one of her last memories. A couple years later she passed away.
Yesterday I received a pleasant surprise from my Uncle on my dad’s side. He had received my email address from my cousin, and wanted to tell me that he has a present for me that Grandma had never remembered to give me. “Please give us your mailing address. It is a little gift that Grandma Rilkoff bought for you many years ago. She always told us it was for you but by the time Christmas came around she would forget about it. When everything was cleaned out of their house we ended up bringing them home with us to pass on to you. Each time the family has gotten together we have forgotten to take them along (I guess the Alzheimer’s is passing on to the next generation!!). Anyway would love to get them sent off to you this year,” he wrote.
My grandmother passed away 3 or 4 years ago, and before that, she had been in a home for about 3 years. I could see that gift being 7-10 years old! I wonder what it is! I am so excited to find out what she got for me so many years ago! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I hope it’s something that I will want to keep and cherish forever.