Life presents a double-edged sword to contend with as the years stack up. If you are going to love something or someone, the fact that it can’t last forever smacks you in the face–like a warranty on the upcoming relationship. If love is on one end, the other edge of the sword is grief.
Ten years ago today, Henrietta Bulus passed away. She lived a good life and made it into her 80’s, but it still feels cruel that the world doesn’t have her in it anymore. She loved talking to anyone and everyone at a party, would welcome a stranger into her home for a meal, and was a walking language barrier destroyer.
The young kids in my family called her “Meme,” many years before the word caught on as a visual gimmick around the world. A 95-pound soaking wet woman with a zest for life that couldn’t be properly measured, Meme lived life to Paris and back. This country would be unable to hold her for more than a stretch of months or a year; travel was a part of her DNA. One of my biggest regrets was constantly turning her down for travel. You never know there won’t be any more time until there indeed is no time left.
It was her warmth that pulled people into her scope. Her house was your own at a dinner party. A painting or framed picture would be followed by a long story and two bottles of red wine. The kitchen would be stuffed with 5-6 people drinking wine, tasting Lebanese food, or people trading places. A Sunday dinner would begin with pita bread and end with coffee so strong, the damn spoon would stand straight up. I miss that coffee, just like I miss her.
Here’s the thing about grandparents: you will love them as a kid, think of them as pesky knowledge dispensers as a teen, and return to loving them as an adult. Please don’t take them for granted. If they want to talk to you for a few minutes, give them the time. Without them, there’s a solid chance you wouldn’t even be here. Believe it or not, they won’t be here for long.
I wish I had a few more talks with Meme before she left. I wish that her final words to me weren’t about the St. Louis Cardinals getting by without Albert Pujols. I wish it wasn’t a voicemail that marked her last spoken words to me. We always wish there was more time, even if there isn’t.
So, if you’re at a Christmas party this weekend, give the grandparents a big hug. Don’t worry about how it’ll look or feel to others. That’s not the intent. It’ll mean the world to them. Meme would make it her ultimate goal in life to talk to every single person at a party.
That’s what she did the night her life took a dark turn. She was at a big party, which was talking place on multiple floors at someone’s home. She was making an attempt to go downstairs at some point in the night, and tripped. While the day she died was Dec. 24, 2011, it was really about two weeks before that. It may have been Henrietta sitting in that hospital bed, but that wasn’t Meme.
The holidays are bittersweet reminders for several reasons. My grandmother is a special case. She was married on Dec. 24, and she passed away on Dec. 24.
But there isn’t a December that goes by where I don’t wonder if the world would be a better place with her still alive. That’s the double-edged sword of life: love and grief.