STRAWBERRY CUPCAKE WITH EXTRA FROSTING
I was sitting at my vanity in my bedroom putting on my makeup last Friday morning. It’s a rare thing to put on a full face of makeup these days—I was taking the kids to Tyler for the day because I was attending a gala for an organization for human trafficking that evening. Blake was still in bed because he can get ready in five minutes if he needs to, & he’s okay with throwing granola bars at the kids for breakfast, (which is FINE) but I like to actually make them something most of the time because it’s usually all downhill from there. We were talking about what time he would leave work & what time he could pick me up from his parents’ for the gala when my dad texted me—Meme passed away this morning.
It wasn’t a shock—Meme hadn’t been doing well, especially since her fall last month—but still, I thought I would see her for one more Christmas. The last time I saw her was in May for her 90th birthday. It was also Mother’s Day. It was a surprise party, & all four of her kids & all the grandkids & great-grandkids showed up. It was the happiest I’d seen her in a long time. She wore a pink corsage, & she was beautiful.
Growing up, I saw her regularly because she lived near my parents. It was only four years ago that we stopped living in the same city & our visits became less consistent. We talked on the phone some, but she was never much for words & her hearing wasn’t great, so when I caught her in the dining room or during BINGO, our phone calls were especially brief.
Meme loved me, & I loved her. She gave big hugs & enjoyed spending time with us. I remember watching a lot of Full House at her house after school together. But if you looked up Joy in the dictionary, you probably wouldn’t see her picture. The thing is, she had a complaint for nearly everything. I remember one time when I was in elementary & the two of us went to lunch together, she didn’t tip the waitress because her chair was uncomfortable. Classic Meme right there. She helped my mom do our laundry when I was growing up, & during the summer, if my sister, Carly, & I weren’t up at 8:30 so she could take the sheets off our beds, she’d open the door & without fully stepping in, she’d say in as loud of voice as she could, which she made up in stern for what she lacked in volume, Get up so I can change your sheets. Not anything mean, really….just not exactly nice. I think she did the best she could with what she had, & that was just the talk my meme knew.
I was home from college for the summer, & she sent me an e-mail. A nasty e-mail that made me red in the face. Full of self-pity, it was all about how nobody visited her & honestly, I can’t even remember the details because I tried forgetting them. What I do remember is I had to take a hot minute. I needed to breathe & decide how I would respond. I didn’t want to share it with anyone else because I knew it would breed anger. Even though I was furious she had stooped to this level, I knew she wasn’t lashing out because she liked being mean. She was reaching out because she was lonely & she was hurting & because it was true that I hadn’t visited her enough. So I took her a cupcake. I walked into her assisted living home & hugged her & handed her a beautiful strawberry cupcake with extra frosting & I told her I loved her. Seeing her words on paper, you’d have thought was she steel, but seeing her in person there, she was vulnerable. When we hugged, I felt it in her hands— that’s what she needed. I told her I was sorry for not seeing her or calling enough. And lastly, I said she wasn’t going to get far with anyone by sending e-mails like that. I like to credit the cupcake for making her feel loved & not on the defense.
Our relationship didn’t magically soar on unicorn wings after that, but I’d like to think it changed the trajectory of our relationship for the next nine years. That maybe she saw me more as someone doing the best she could & I saw her more as a human needing love.
I didn’t cry when I saw my dad’s text. I didn’t fall apart. Tears brimmed my eyes though when I pictured her entering heaven. I pictured her running, which I’ve never seen her do in my life, to her husband, Bill, who left for heaven thirty-one years ago. The tightest, full bodied hug. I can’t imagine a sweeter, more savored reunion. Loneliness no more, Meme. I love you, & I’ll see you again. Enjoy a strawberry cupcake with extra frosting for me.