by Stacey Tolbert
Death is so final. The finality of it all like the last electric shock before the body goes limp…motionless… still like Mississippi waters on the hottest day of summer.
I pleaded with God for the gut feeling in my heart to be some figment of my vivid imagination. I wanted her to stay a little longer so that I could marinade in her wisdom, bask in the glow of her love, engulf my taste buds in her sea of soul food.
Too late always comes so soon.
I had been gone the entire summer in Arizona, my first internship in college, my first trip visiting my aunt and uncle, my first summer as a teen away from my grandmother. She and I were white on rice close. I hung on her apron as a child and watched her make gourmet meals with love. I took for granted peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies weekly, fresh rolls, delectable fried chicken and a heaping tablespoonfull of un-filtered of love.
I never realized until adulthood how miraculous it was to be an orphan at 7, abused and turn out to be a loving mother and grandmother…cycle broken, shackles unlocked and the script flipped.
I spoke to her frequently on the phone blabbing about my Scottsdale Arizona adventures, working, shopping, lounging and she listened intently but said “Make the best of this. Everyone doesn’t get these kind of experiences at the age of 19.”
I agreed but I wanted to know how her tomatoes were doing and the fresh mint and how she was doing and did she miss me and what did she cook for dinner?
“Tomatoes are tomatoes, mint is mint, I am fine, polish sausage and sauerkraut I mss you but do you hear me? You think life is difficult now and you need a stress break…as you get older it only gets worse. You betta listen to what I’m telling you.”
This time her beautiful wisdom filled words sounded different. I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t want to figure out why.
I over heard my aunt tell my uncle that she had gout in her foot “again”. I dismissed this as some old person’s ailment that even struck super active seemingly young grandparents like mine.
I was freelance writing for a coorperate newspaper and proudly mailed her every copy equipped with sticky notes indicating which pages my stories were featured. I wanted her to be proud of me.
While other grandmothers were “too busy” she and I were playing uno, othello, sorry and reading newspaper with coffee in hand…and secretly I missed that. Contrary to popular belief, I would have rather been playing a game of uno than deal with teenage angst.
Upon my arrival back to Kansas City I was so happy to see her, she was happy to see me, but her sparkle was gone.
Two weeks before her death in September, I was at her house. She cooked smothered steak, potatoes and green beans but she was hobbling around.
I remember my grandfather and mom taking her to the hospital. I told myself she would be fine. She had to be fine. On the eve of her death, my family asked if I wanted to see her, I quickly replied “no, I will see her when she comes home for the hospital.
Too late always comes too soon.
Though she died in September of 1991 it wasn’t until the year 2001 that I released her death and welcomed her memories. One night I allowed myself to say all I wanted to say. To grieve and cry and reflect. To love. To bury her and embrace her spirit at the same time.
When all is quiet I can hear the sound of her ice tea cubes hitting the glass and a nice throaty AAAAA come from her mouth.
“Good sun tea.” She would say and wink at me.
She made it seem like that one glass of tea was the best thing in the entire world.
Ten years later I am taking her advice.
When too late comes to soon and even before too late comes I take some much needed time out for sun tea…AAAAAHHHHH…and I even wink.