The Scamp Remembers

Today is a hard day for my mom. Today is the day that she lost her mom to a horrific car accident. Today is a day that we usually eat a club sandwich from iHop, drink a diet coke and watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I wrote this last year for her birthday, and I don’t think I can write anything better to capture how I feel. So here goes:

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The woman in these photos is Frances Ann. Today is her 80th birthday.

Or, it would be if she believed in wearing her seatbelt. When I was in the third grade she died when she overcorrected her car on the highway. The car flipped and she went through the windshield. Her best friend was in the car with her and survived. Before the funeral, her friend insisted on telling the story of what happened. I remember the crazy curved couch that everyone was sitting on. She was sitting with her husband, my mom, aunt and grandpa sat and listened.

Sometimes I think it would be better for my mom if she hadn’t heard the story.

I can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I can’t remember the way she felt when I hugged her.

I can remember the way she smelled. Sometimes I go to the cosmetic counter at the shopping centre near my house and spray the sample of Red Door into the air just to trigger a memory.

I can remember where we stood when we spread her ashes in Indian Canyon. I’ve only been there one other time since then, and it was to spread my grandpa there after he died.

I can remember the horrible photo she drew of me when I had to go to the emergency room for an ear infection. The picture was me in a hospital gown with my butt exposed and a doctor with a very very large needle ready to give me a shot. In the butt. I have a few scarves that belonged to her with me now.

They smell like my mom.

When my mom smiles, she looks like my grandma….or at least how I remember my grandma in my head.

It is a smile that involves teeth. I know this because it is the same smile that I have (most people tell me they know I am American because of my smile…all those teeth).

This is a hard day for my mom. She can’t call her mom and wish her a happy birthday. She can’t call her when one of her children (cough the oldest one cough) drives her crazy. It is a hard time for me because I have to think about the day when I won’t have my mom.

and that terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my great uncle who was in town on holiday. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so, but he knew exactly who I was when I met him for brunch. He gave me the best compliment that anyone could ever give me: he told me I look and act exactly like my mother.

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 Since my mom sometimes looks and acts like my grammy, and I look and act a lot like my mommy, it must mean that I am a little like my grammy too.

I’d like to think that she would enjoy what I am doing with her smile.

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The Scamp at 20 Years

20 years is a long time to miss someone. I can’t remember what her voice sounds like, but when I smell Red Door I instantly see my grandma’s face. I was only 8 when she died, but I remember the night we got the phone call, I remember bits and pieces of the funeral, and I remember her best friend, who was in the car with her when it wrecked, told my mom the story of what happened.

Francis Ann. Grandma Fran. Auntie Fran. Franie. Mom. Sister. She was a lot of things to a lot of people, and because she refused to wear a seat belt, the world has had to be without her for the last 20 years.

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She battled drug addiction. She battled her weight. She battled a shopping and gambling addiction. She was a complicated woman, sometimes almost impossible to be around. I didn’t know any of that. I only knew her as my grammy. She had zebra print carpet, took us for hamburgers and milkshakes whenever we went to visit her and my grandpa in Palm Springs, and never let her hummingbird feeders run out of food. I can remember being in Louie the Lebaron with my brother, sister, and our two cousins Jodi and Sivan when we were really young. I don’t remember where we were going, but while we were in the car, she started a sentence and we all took turns adding to the story. I can’t remember what the story was about, but I remember laughing and the story getting more and more ridiculous the longer we went around.

This is always a hard time for my mom. She has had 20 years of health issues, awards, major projects, and amazing life moments that she did not get to share with her mom. I can’t go more than six hours without talking to my mom, so I have no idea how I would survive 20 years. I’ve struggled a lot in the last two years, and my mom has tried her best to shoulder the burden so I didn’t have to.

The one comfort that I had when I lived in California was a hummingbird that comes to hang out at my parent’s house. There is no real reason for the hummingbird to hang out, but it comes every day, sometimes right to the door. My last night in California, it hung out for over two hours and got close enough for me to touch. I like to think that that little bird has the soul of my grandma and hangs out with us to see what kind of shenanigans we get up to. There are no hummingbirds in Scotland, but if I ever see one, I will know why it is there.

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So, until I figure out what happens after you die, I like to think of her the way my aunt thinks of her:

I like to think of her winning at heavenly Mahj Jongg, Bridge, Canasta. She still is one of the smartest, funniest people I have ever known. Do they have Jeopardy in Heaven?

Those of you who see my mom, or know how to get a hold of her, be sure to send some love her way.

And go hug your mommys. Right now.