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{self portrait tuesday} a first, a last

liz lamoreux

Grandma and me 1976

One of the first pictures of us together. I think about what she must have been thinking, "I am holding my daughter's daughter." I wonder if she realized that she was going to be my first friend. She taught me to give and not worry about what I received in return. Together we would laugh and laugh and laugh. She let down her defenses with me; she let me in. In this picture, she is so young. She always looked like this to me. I used to rub Pond's cold cream on that face; take off her make-up then put it back on for her. How she must have looked after I made up that face. She was patient and fun and silly and honest.

Grandma and me june 04

The last picture. The last time I saw her alive. Before we moved to the pacific northwest, I knew we had to visit them. A last drive from Indiana to South Carolina; we stayed for a couple of days. In the middle of the night before the morning we were to leave, I woke up with a wicked flu, so we stayed for two extra days and were there on my birthday. What a blessing. Two more days I wouldn't have had. She took care of me and we talked. She showed me a family genealogy book no one knew she had. We looked through old pictures. On the morning we left I insisted, as I always do, that we take pictures. And even though I was still sick, not wearing make-up, and feeling pretty crappy, she made me laugh and laugh as my husband took our picture. Then I hugged her good-bye; we were both crying. I started to get in the car, then walked back over and hugged her again. I got back into the car, and Jon began to back out of their driveway. If I close my eyes, I can see her standing there waving, crying.

I ache because it was only a few days prior to her death that I really understood the role she had played in my life. Through a conversation with another, I realized she had been the first person to let me be whoever I wanted to be. And I wanted to tell her that I finally got it. To let her know that through this acceptance I had become the person I am now and that she was my dearest friend. And I was going to be able to tell her in person because I was flying for a visit that Wednesday. My visit had been planed for weeks, but she had been hospitalized over the weekend. She was doing better they said, no need to rush your visit. You will get here as she is feeling stronger.
Tuesday morning, 2:45 a.m. the phone rang. My aunt. The hospital had called her, and things had taken a turn; she and my uncle were on their way. "Will you hold the phone up to her ear when you get there? Even if she is in a coma, will you do that for me?" I asked "Of course," she said tears in her voice. She understood. I just had to tell my grandmother what I had realized, but more importantly, I just wanted to tell her thank you.
We didn't know that she had already died.
I know that people say she already knew. But I wanted to tell her. And I wanted one more last picture. One more last day.

(link to more SPT personal history posts here)