My grandmother, my dad’s mom, had a stroke in October and has been decreasing in life energy since (the will to live). I have been absorbed with school, my internship, my broken toe, and the rest of my life (emphasis on the selfish) to the point where there was a significant distance between the relationship I have with my dad; which is usually super close.
I told my dad I would see him for New Years and those plans fell through and we left it at that until a couple of days ago when I said I would make it out for spring break; at least a few days. My supervisor tried to surprise me with data entry during my time off, but I left dirty dishes and smelly laundry behind to drive to Phoenix to see the only parent I have left and some of the only people on this planet that are still family.
I was busy with IHRSA on Friday.
I packed quickly on Saturday leaving the house a mess. I took the loan car since the dealership hadn’t called on the 20th like they said they would because the replacement engine they ordered was garbage and they are replacing that one too. We, the dogs and I, stop in Yuma for our obligatory walk at the Riverside Park where they have now built a mini railroad attraction, so we don’t stay long.
I arrive in the afternoon and my dad hugged me, fed me, and talked mostly at me for hours before Caroline joined us for dinner at Saffron Jak where I had my first sangak taco and got a sample of the lentil soup for us all to try; delicious by the way. We had coffee at home, tried some snacks from their travels, and Caroline and I stayed up past my bedtime talking while my dad learned more in Blender and my husband fell asleep on a coworkers couch playing video games.
I woke up feeling rough but appreciative this morning. I put some water on my face and walked the dogs at 8:30. Sunday is the traditional breakfast at Wagon Yard, but with a different server and some naughty jokes to accompany my two eggs over medium with tomato slices, wheat toast, and a cup of cottage cheese. Sometimes I have strawberry jam with butter if I didn’t use all the toast with my eggs.
Lunch was late at Hek Yeah BBQ after which I took a 40-minute nap full of broccoli and mac-n-cheese, and appreciated the feeling of being on vacation. Caroline and I walked to the store for eggs, maple almond butter, cherry Icelandic yogurt, broccoli, a lemon, and some pork chops to get us fed around the concert (Sahba Motallebi at the MIM) and ensure breakfast for the week.
We tried the almond butter on Triscuits and sourdough rye and left the house at 6:30 after I wished Caleb good night. Before I came to visit I was warned that my grandmother had two weeks to live as her condition had been declining and she had been put into hospice. Saturday I was told she had about two days left because she hadn’t had any water in three days.
We went to the concert and I focused on a million things — the tiny fingers of the percussionist, having my picture taken near the stage after my first concert at the MIM (also on March 25, but in 2011), all the instruments in the museum, the flash photography in the audience, the woman sleeping beside me and then chewing gum like she was chewing through her tongue to stay awake, the personal closeness of the moment with the artist as she shared pieces written after the birth of her second daughter and at 16-year-old fighting for women musicians.
We get home to smoked salmon and pickled asparagus and then the call comes in from my Aunt Shari that my grandma has passed at 9:30pm on March 25, or a bit prior to. I am overcome with emotion (the hyperventilating type) and am quickly comforted by a blanket, slippers, and hug from Caroline and some words of cheer from Dad. I don’t think I finished my pink tea.
Monday can best be described as having the flu (feeling terrible and unmotivated). I had brought my perishable items (tomatoes, kiwis, etc.) with me and added them to yellow dal and kala chana for lunch, and yogurt with walnuts for breakfast. We went for coffee, I had toast, and walked the dogs in an attempt to stay awake and still took a nap. I made dinner — steamed broccoli with pan-fried zucchini, jalapeño, onion, bell pepper, carrots, and mushrooms. Dessert was almonds and a chocolate biscuit cookie.
Besides all the eating I was able to get some reading done, a conversation with Dad, and picking out patterns for hand-weaved coasters with Caroline till bedtime. Not only was she not taking bereavement time off, but we were dropping her off early so that father and daughter could take a road trip — Superior, Globe, Show Low, through Payson (where grandma had her stroke at her fifth wheel camper, and back to Phoenix for my second dinner at Saffron Jak.
We met Kathy in Superior and talked about everything past (movie history of U-Turn filmed in 1996), present (she practices the bagpipes every morning), and future (the electric mine and refurbishing of Main Street). We spent 30 minutes in La Luz Del Dia, and the waitress gave us a history lesson as she led us out the back door, waiting for Ed’s La Casita East to open for lunch.
Sparky slept in my lap on the way to Seneca Lake Campground, now abandoned, and we might’ve stayed longer if not for the other car there too — and lack of a pillow and food. We stopped at Salt River Canyon, with one bridge for people and one for cars, but we only took the stairs down to see the fallen sign, the swirling water, and the graffiti underneath. We stopped up the road as well for the scenic viewpoint and had more fun getting a picture of me.
I called Caleb from The Pour Station in Show Low between sips of chai latte while Dad was writing; this trip is a bit of a throwback to the trip book we wrote in 2011. We drove quickly through Payson and back to Saffron Jak where I would have half a piece of sangak (3′ x 1′) to myself to accompany the hummus and lentil soup, both with a touch of citrus. I tried some Stubborn Soda, a mix of their black cherry with tarragon and agave vanilla cream, and though the sugar may be natural there’s still 16 g & 18 g per 8 oz.
If that wasn’t enough food and sweet already, I was treated to a piece of baklava, luckily only the size of my thumb. I spent 30 minutes walking with Caleb on the phone, went for a short run, and then stood outside with the guys (Dad knows more of his neighbors now) for 45 minutes; and held Sparky after he came down the stairs, went back up, and then fell down them when he still heard my voice.
My idea of relaxing, sipping on a Morning Meditation (mostly beets) and chewing the ice from First Watch while we wait for Dad’s office to open (that way someone else with a key is also locking up). While he goes for coffee, I go into Hypatia to see what new museums and learning tools have been built since I’ve been gone. I’m only in there for about 35 minutes, but it plays a trick on your brain to stand still while it appears that you’re skipping through double doors to go shopping for different hands.
I pick up three books off Dad’s work bookshelf and he decides they are coming home with him and staying there. At least I know I’ll have reading material when I return if I don’t bring my own (though I did this time and didn’t read but a page). He picks me up and we drive to Old Heidelberg Bakery to get Caroline more rye bread, the last two sausage that he likes, and a giant chocolate-dipped macaroon for me. I have broccoli and walnuts at the house to complete my lunch.
More walking, more reading, and then Dad catches a Giant Swallowtail butterfly. We go to Starbucks for a pre-dinner drink, where I would’ve dried the blonde espresso but they were out so I settled for a shot with some almond milk, and some collaboration. Caroline walks over from her office and we drive to Oregano’s to eat with my aunts, Amanda and Shari, and Amanda’s husband of two years in April, Brandon.
We’re seated at 7:30, share a Guaca-Tony (pizza crust and guacamole), and I eat half a vino bambino salad so that I can help with the garlic and caramelized cheese pizza, the last uneaten square being taken away at 10pm when they close. We would leave shortly after and wouldn’t be the last. We missed having Caleb and Shawn (Shari’s son, my cousin) with his family (his wife Brittany and daughters Penny and Harper, 7 and 5), but hopefully, that’s another trip.
We get home late and I stay up even later to finish the book I was lent. Sparky has been restless in his temporary bedding situation, but tonight I will be the one jumping around and using my phone flashlight to check for blood on the pillow after I wake from a dream, with a bloody nose, about someone dying. My last day in Phoenix arrives and I try the matcha latte pancakes from First Watch. Amanda is able to join us and I will give hugs, grab my things and dogs, and head west by 10:30.
It’s 92* when we drive through Yuma, so no puppy play only gas in the car before the price hike over the state line. I take the Palm Ave. exit, less than two miles from the house, and a car tries to hit me (getting closer as I honked), but it turned out ok.
I’ve written three drafts trying to figure out this week — the concert, food, driving, family, death; and the details of our conversations (what made me laugh, what kept me up at night, and what was left unsaid), all the missed photo opportunities because I forgot my camera, and whether or not I should’ve stayed longer to build relationships that my grandma helped to hold together over the years.
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Thank you. It was nice to have all her kids, my dad included, in the same room sharing their memories of her.
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My sympathies for your loss Jessica. What a heartwarming tale of memories, travel, scrumptious food and more memories, more food and travel. All nice ways to remember your grandmother.
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