I have a problem with stairs. While they are what we use to travel around our homes, they can be deadly if taken for granted. 9 years ago, I lost my lovely grandmother, nicknamed Meme, due to a fall on harmless steps.
A story that has been told a thousand times never loses any of the heat on its fastball, so I’ll spin it for you quickly. She was the kind of social powerhouse who felt like a party wasn’t fulfilled until she spoke with every single soul in the building. If she had to go up and down a flight of stairs to tell a story, there wasn’t a building high enough. The only solace I take in her untimely passing is that she went out doing what she loved.
Henrietta Bulus died on Christmas Eve nine years ago. The same day she got married to my resilient grandmother, Lawrence (where I get my middle name), was the same day of the year as her demise. A book’s cover colliding with its last page, Meme lived a full life. It didn’t matter to me. A grandmother may grow old, but they still leave too soon. I don’t care about the years. Meme was approaching or passing 90. She got her time in, but I wanted more. You always want more. That’s life for you: a fickle, endless heap of memories that get covered in bright and dark colors, depending on your choices. I love and hate that about this little dance we are a part of.
I wish my Meme was still around. I can only imagine her schooling me on how to properly raise and toughen up my son, Vinny. She would read me the book of Meme four times and still prep for a fifth reading. She was resilient, sweet, tough, and relentless. I don’t think she ever weighed 100 pounds, but her smile and laugh could starve out of the steepest of hate tsunamis. I used to think of her as that untearable plastic. You looked at her and could classify her as older and frail, but Henrietta didn’t move a step in her beliefs.
She was 150% catholic, spoke a few languages strongly, and had endless bottles of dry red wine. If I had to describe Meme with one word, it would be giving. That’s all she did. It’s something that I miss about her. I don’t know how you feel about death, but I relate losing a great soul to seeing a huge light bulb go dark at the worst time.
I bet the parents of Chadwick Boseman weren’t ready to say goodbye. I can say the same for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because that line should wrap around the globe twice. You’re never ready to say goodbye, even when the doctor tells you it’s time to do so. Watches stop, clocks go bad, and the outside world freezes when you lose someone who is necessary. A circuit goes awry, and your entire system crashes. Things will come back up, but it’ll still hurt for a while.
I wish everyone was still here. While it may sound like an emotional dialogue body slam late in the third act, it’s just a random truth. I wish all my friends and family were still here. Keeping me honest and enriching my damn soul at the same time. You never know when the final hangout will be.
I took Meme for granted. Grandparents get this all the time. You’re a resourceful yet clingy elder who always seems to be telling us what to do. It weighs on us with all the other rounds of advice from older souls, but in the end, their words are sacred stone. We just don’t realize early enough to tell them how important they are.
Henrietta “Meme” Bulus was so important. 2020 could have used her grace. Her kind hearted and giving soul. She’d be masked up right now down off Grand Boulevard feeding the homeless a hot meal with the nuns. She would be there all night, in harm’s way, doing the right thing. One more wise mind to fight a crisis.
But she’s gone. I miss her all the time, wondering what it would be like for her to bestow 10-15 minutes of legislature from her time on Earth. I would give anything to get that lecture. She would ask me about the holes in my jeans, the overgrown beard, and all those curse words on the book of Face. She would question all of it, and I would volley like Sampras.
My advice is simple. Don’t waste any time with your grandparents. Don’t miss a call with your parents or siblings. Get on a Zoom conference call with your Brady Bunch. Just do it. Buy two bottles at the store and prepare for turbulence, as well as laughter of the highest order. We may never sit at this table again, so take advantage of the time your clock is giving you.
Meme was a saint. I can only hope the red is dry, the cinema is French, and the television knows where 60 Minutes lives. I miss you, but understand that not all great things last long enough.
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas Eve!