Today, the woman I shared a first and last name with for 25 years, passed away peacefully after a long, hard struggle. For years I complained about having a twenty-six letter name, one less than the entire alphabet. Margaret Catherine Donaldson. Try signing that over and over. Turns out it’s a pretty great name that I am honored to have shared with her.
Most of the memories I have of my grandma are in the springtime so it’s only fitting she left us in March. A time when the flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and the pollen is incredibly thick. She took so much pride in her azalea bushes and could be found raking and trimming them when the weather allowed. I can just see her pulling out weeds and lugging a big, blue tarp filled with leaves down to the pile behind her house. When Easter rolled around, we would walk over to find a tray, the size of her coffee table, filled with fake, glistening grass and every kind of candy you can imagine. She always put those Circus Peanuts on for my mom but we couldn’t stand them! Most grandchildren are spoiled but living literally next door to your grandma brings a while new meaning to the word.
Heather and I remember days after school when we would drop off our stuff then run over to grandma’s house. In true grandmotherly nature, she was constantly trying to feed us. Some days we would munch on chips or pretzels, other times she would make us tuna fish sandwiches. We finally figured out why hers were the best. The ratio of tuna to Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise was shockingly in favor of the mayo. And of course it was slathered on white, Wonder bread. If that wasn’t enough, she taught us how to make what can only be described currently as “childhood obesity in a sandwich.” Simply take a slice of soft, white bread, spread real butter onto the top, sprinkle with a generous helping of white sugar and fold together to make a heavenly pocket. I’m sure my mother loved that she hopped us up on refined sugar and then sent us home across the sidewalk.
Somehow we turned out alright. Maybe it’s because she was always trying to be fair to her only three granddaughters. When Christmas was creeping closer, she would take us to Montgomery Wards to pick out our presents. I remember thinking it took so long to get there. As an adult I realize it was only a few miles away but we took the back roads every time to avoid the highway at all costs. She must have passed her cautiousness onto me. The worst part was choosing what we wanted, but then having to surrender it for a month just so she could wrap it and put it under the tree. That tradition actually continued until just a few years ago. On Christmas morning, Heather and I knew which presents were the “extra” ones. They would all be the exact same box stacked the exact same way with each separate pile designated for “Meggie” or “Heather”. There was a system. If Heather opened the small box before me, I knew I was getting a necklace. If I opened one of the bigger ones in the stack, she knew she was getting socks. The trick was to open the same size box at the exact same time so we were surprised. Maybe it’s one of the disadvantages of being a twin but I know she was just trying to be fair and I really appreciate that.
In honor of her memory and what she has given to us over the years, I preserved some of these photos in vintage bottles I had collected.
They sit on top of my bookshelf where I can pass by them everyday and smile. I placed them in front of a mirror because there are more pictures on the other side that you can see in the reflection. There are two of her at my wedding and those I will cherish the most.
If there is one thing I will remember most about my grandma, it was her sense of humor and her laugh. No one else on the planet had a laugh like hers. It was so genuine and contagious. Even up until a few days ago, me, Heather and Amy shared a few laughs with her in hospice. We shared an hour with her over Diabetic Vanilla shakes and it was a moment I will not soon forget. That was the last good day she had and I will treasure it forever. Even in the hospital a few weeks prior to that visit, she had us in stitches. She joked about how she was going to have a goatee by the time she left because she didn’t bring a razor to the hospital. Her deadpan delivery and naivety is what made her so funny. I don’t think she really knew how entertaining she was.
I will miss her so much but I know she’s in a much happier and peaceful place now. She’s young and with my grandfather, Ray, who we never had the pleasure of meeting. She said when she got to heaven, she was going to kick his butt for leaving so early. I’m sure by now they’ve made up and are together again. I know that a bunch of the Donaldsons are up there having a pretty awesome barbeque. You can be sure that there is pulled pork, deviled eggs, baked beans and pineapple upside-down cake to be had by all.
Until we meet again, watch over us all and just like I promised, I will always “be careful”.
I love you Grandma.