August.

No food or baby pictures today.  It’s been a day of reflection.  This morning I found out that my Grandma passed away overnight.  While it was not unexpected or really even surprising, I have found myself much sadder than I’d anticipated.

She lived 97 amazing years.  Can you even imagine?  I wonder what it must have been like to watch her world change so much over almost a century. 

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She lived far away in Florida, so our visits with her were always special.  And while she never baked me cookies or saw me in a school musical, she was a comforting and warm presence that was always with me.

She and my Grandpa exemplified what love is, and even as a little girl I loved watching them interact and catch each other’s eye across a room.  We’d visit their house and be on our best behavior, since there were always fancy rugs and lots of breakables.  I’d ask about paintings and sculptures in order to hear stories of their travels all over the world. 

At the time, I didn’t know how extraordinary or special it was, but each year they arranged for us to have a giant family vacation.  We have a big family – 5 aunts and uncles, 15 first cousins, plus Grandma, Grandpa, and a handful of other great aunts and others.

We’d travel from all over the country – Ohio, California, Florida, and beyond – and all connect in Hilton Head, South Carolina for two glorious weeks of togetherness.  It was always the first two weeks of August, and I looked forward to it all year long.  I idolized my older cousins, loved the energy of our house packed with 30+ people, and started a love affair with sand and salt water that I still have today. 

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With our family spread so far apart, we only had the chance to get together once a year.  Those weeks my Grandparents gave us in Hilton Head are some of the best memories I have of my (somewhat confusing) childhood.  They rented bikes for us, took us on sailing trips, and and provided an unimaginable amount of food.  But the real gift at the end of it all was the feeling of being surrounded by the unconditional love you can only feel with family.

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The end of our Hilton Head trip was the symbolic end to our summers. It meant a long car ride home, new back to school outfits, and a coming year of school schedules and gymnastics practices.  And all year long, I’d look forward to August when it our car would pull up the driveway on Turtle Lane, and our two weeks of uninterrupted playing and laughing would begin. 

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I spent two weeks a year with my Grandma, and a few Christmases and other visits sprinkled here and there.  Over the course of my 31 years, that’s not really all that much time.  But she has been a constant and reassuring presence in my life. 

Of course, today, I am wishing there had been more.  I feel a bit emptier.  I can’t quite place what it is, but I know that something is missing.  And while I knew she wouldn’t live forever, after 97 years I was starting to think she might.

She outlived her husband by twenty years.  I hope that this morning they have reconnected somewhere.  That feeling brings me some peace.  She has waited so long.

I talked to my wise cousin Sarah this morning, and shared how sad I was feeling.  I told her I knew it was coming, but somehow I was still surprised.

Sarah responded with, “She made it to August.  I knew she would.”

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August.  Of course she did.