She wasn’t the most sophisticated or high-class woman, but she smelled like one. In fact, she came from extreme poverty.
Poverty forced her family to eat nothing but meals made out of potatoes. Poverty forced her to wear hand-me-downs that were too big for her and made her underwear fall down to her ankles in front of everyone on the bus.
The humiliation of not being able to afford garments that fit or having cracked wood for floors stayed with her. She was a foul-mouthed bastard who would fight dirty and did whatever she pleased.
One day, she hopped on his motorcycle and never looked back.
She may have left her run-down neighborhood behind, but she remained the same scrawny girl that was picking fights and throwing fists.
She and her husband were hard workers. With two children right after tying the knot, they had to provide for their new family and new life together.
Despite being hardworking, their family never knew wealth or financial stability. However, she refused to let her daughters suffer the same embarrassment and bleakness that poisoned her childhood.
They went on trips to Land of Make Believe, shopping malls, dining out and nights at the movies. While the financial burden was heavy, her daughters’ smiles were worth it. Her family’s homes were foreclosed numerous times and they constantly had to move to different states for work. Still, her daughters’ smiles were worth it.
Once her children were in high school and got jobs of their own, their finances weren’t so terrible. Her daughters had boyfriends, went to prom and even went to college.
One daughter was so brilliant, she graduated valedictorian of her high school at 16 and her college at 20. She received full-ride scholarships to both colleges she attended, one being Montclair State University.
That daughter married her senior prom date, an equally intelligent boy who went on to become a software engineer for the United States military. Life for them became quite comfortable, and she was proud of that.
Even though money wasn’t as big of an issue with her kids out of the house, she was the same girl as the one on the bus. A mother, but a punk at heart. She had treated her children to luxuries she had never had. Now, it was time to treat herself. She had bought a variety of makeup, nail polish and accessories. She finally fit in.
One thing she owned stood out to me.
It portrayed the elegance and divinity of a woman in the early 1900s. It glowed orange and gold with diamond embedded on top. White Diamond perfume by Elizabeth Taylor. It was her signature scent. A scent with such refinement and delicacy for a woman who used to steal from local bars, but it suit her.
Every time she walked in the door, I was blessed with a whiff of grandeur sophistication. But the scent faded over time as well as the fiery woman I once knew. Bedridden after brain cancer, thyroid cancer, two strokes, arthritis and early-onset Alzheimer’s. After years of debilitating disease and illness, my grandmother was gone.
Now lay a confused, scared and frail old woman in a nursing home, begging to go home. Every time I visit, which isn’t often due to the pandemic, I go home sobbing. I still love this woman, but I mourn my grandmother.
She no longer has the strength to put on her golden jewelry, makeup or even her perfume. She no longer has the strength to do anything but open her eyes and get out a sentence or two. Every once in a while, she’ll mutter something sassy or slightly offensive, so I know she’s still in there somewhere. However, my once favorite comedian can no longer make jokes about me because she has no idea who I am.
It’s heartbreaking to see someone’s soul die and another one takes their body. It’s not fair.
I would do anything again to see her in all her glory. Five-foot 10 inches with huge brunette curls and that White Diamond perfume that lingered on every object she touched.
My grandfather now lives in a senior citizen apartment complex alone. He’s quite isolated, but he spends his days decorating with art or home improvement projects. He’s slowly erasing any evidence his wife lived there. He still has some of her own art, including beautifully painted and decorated hollow eggshells. However, they live apart and having her belongings around creates false hope that she will one day return to the apartment.
Most of her things were either given to her or sent to thrift shops.
One day, he asked my brother and I to help declutter. We sifted through closets, shelves and nightstands. Nothing was really worth keeping and most of it we gave to her or threw out.
While digging through her old closet, I found something on the top shelf.
It wasn’t extraordinary or anything. Honestly, under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t have even thought of taking it, but something about it made it more valuable than anything else.
It was my grandma’s heated winter blanket. A plush olive green blanket made for a queen-sized bed. Most importantly, the strong scent of the White Diamond perfume had prevailed all those years in the closet. Smelling that perfume, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, brought me to tears.
Every night, hot or cold, I wrap myself in that blanket. Every night, I feel at ease my grandmother is with me once again.