Last summer, my maternal grandmother had a stroke only two weeks before our family reunion. Up until then she had been a healthy 88 year-old, a feisty woman who’d battled breast cancer 30 years before and won. It wasn’t easy to hear that after the stroke she was alternating between periods of confusion and lucidity, and that she might not recognize us when we saw her for the family gathering.
For a lot of the reunion, it was hard to tell if Grandma knew us or not. She’s smile and give hugs, but didn’t say much and stayed close to Grandpa. But the last morning we gathered her mind was clear, and she stood up and spoke to all of us. She told us that she loved us, that she wanted us to live good lives, to remember what was most important. She had a fierceness about her as she spoke. It was a goodbye of sorts, and I think we all knew it.
At the beginning of December my grandma passed away. Her funeral was well-attended, and lovely in the strange way that a funeral can be when someone has lived a full, great life.
A couple of weeks later I got a Christmas card from her and Grandpa in the mail.
I suppose for some it could be an upsetting, possibly even disturbing thing to receive. But you have to know my grandparents. They’d been faithfully sending Christmas cards and birthday cards to us grandkids since we’d been children, and there was always a handwritten note from my Grandma. They never missed, and the card was never late.
All of our growing up years, there was always a present as well. Later on it turned into a generous amount of cash. Eventually we grandkids insisted that the cash wasn’t necessary, that it should be our turn to spoil them. They eventually stopped sending cheques for our birthdays, but when it came to Christmas, they insisted. They wanted us to enjoy ourselves, and the only condition was that we report to them what neat thing we did with the money.
So mid-December I opened up that Christmas card and there was my grandmother’s handwriting, with a personal note that spoke of my children by name and the exciting year we had ahead of us. I stood there with grateful tears, knowing that she’d probably worked on those Christmas cards throughout the fall in her lucid moments, that she had taken those moments of clarity to write to us. And that my Grandfather, despite his grief, had still mailed them out on schedule after she died.
I sat on that Christmas money for months, waiting for just the right thing. In the meantime, I’d purchased a new bottle of Après l’Ondée, hearing about the reformulation, but taking a chance. It wasn’t the same as the sample I’d drained. I wondered if I’d ever be able to smell that scent again.
Then someone on Facebook Fragrance Friends offered an older, almost-full bottle for sale. And wonder of wonders, not only did she live in Canada but offered it to me for the exact amount of my Christmas money. It was the perfect fit for a bittersweet gift; an ethereal and melancholy beauty that can’t be purchased anymore.
So here’s my report, Grandma. I bought an amazing fragrance in your honor, and when I wear it, I think of you.
Miss you, Grandma. Love, Dionne