She made chicken and dumplings and Barbie clothes. She grew violets and collected teacups.
Sometimes I remind myself of her.
She sent so many presents at Christmas time. Each gift was carefully wrapped and tied tightly with thin satin ribbon. Sometimes she taped old Christmas cards on top.
Her home was in the desert, right next to the train tracks. The sound would have bothered me anywhere else, but the trains were part of Grandma's house. They belonged as much as I did.
Every summer my siblings and I rode the Greyhound bus to see her. We sweltered.
Thankfully, kids were allowed to swim in the pool at her trailer court twice a day.
I visited her one summer when my kids were little. For the first time I saw her home through adult eyes; it was small and worn. She had lived and loved from that tiny space for years.
One day the decision was made that she could no longer live alone. It was the right decision, but so very sad. I asked my dad to bring her to me, and he did.
She couldn't climb the stairs, so we made our laundry room into her bedroom. I hoped she was comfortable, I wanted her to feel at home. But she had lived alone for so many years; our activity made her nervous.
She missed her home. She was mourning.
And she hardly ever came out of her room.
In the early morning hours, when she was alone, she talked to our parakeet. "Pretty birdie," she would say over and over and over again. Occasionally, she would come out among us and stand by his cage. "There! He said it!" she would exclaim. But I didn't hear it. I never heard it. She would tell me I just wasn't listening.
The ambulance ride was more traumatic than the stroke. The second time it happened, we drove her to the hospital.
The decision was made that she could no longer stay. It was the right decision, but so very sad.
They let me roll her wheelchair onto the plane and get her settled. I kissed her on the cheek as we both tried not to cry.
That was the last time I saw my grandma.
I was sitting quietly in the kitchen the following morning, feeling like I had failed her. Plain as day, clear as a bell I heard, "Pretty birdie!"
I had learned to listen.
And I like to think that she would think I remind her of herself.