Tattooed On My Heart

Twelve years ago today, my grandmother, Mary Ann Whipple died. She was, by far, the most important woman in my life. More than a grandparent, she was my mother. Her long life didn’t make grief easier. I got to love and bond with her longer. Life went full circle: her arms cradling my newborn body; later that tender touch with my own children; my arms around her as she left her tired body. My grandmother’s body was a source of great joy to me. She was a grandmother of the ‘60s, so she did not “work out”, have Botox, or color her silver hair.

She wore a housecoat over her plump body. She was soft. As a young child, I would lie across her spongy, pillow-like lap while she stroked my head, sang hymns, and hemmed me into the most secure spot in the world.

During church, her hand on mine, I would trace the raised, blue veins that lay underneath her spotted skin.

She smelled of Nivea moisturizer, Cody pressed powder, and rose; scents that to this day cause me to inhale deeply and smile…and sometimes, like today, cry.

We baked. We ate! We delighted in calories: homemade jam, Swedish meatballs, divinity, fudge, and peanut brittle, pull-apart bread, green Jell-O with cottage cheese.

Rainy days and evenings were filled with dominoes, The Carol Burnett Show, and Lawrence Welk.

Life was slow. It was divine.

My grandmother remains present. She is there when I comfort my children when they are tired, or stressed, or sick. She’s beside me in the kitchen as I mix cookie dough with a wooden spoon. She is the quiet voice that asks, “Are you hungry? Tired? Need a hug? You seem a little hungry, or tired, or in need of a hug.”

My hands now have spots; raised blue veins map my hands like rivers. I never look down on them with disdain. In this way, my grandmother lives on in me, and so I embrace this.

I miss you. I love you.

Grandma, you are tattooed on my heart.