As a child, we often visited my grandmother’s home. She lived only a few miles away, but her home was like another world. It wasn’t simply that she lived in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment, so different from my family’s two-bedroom bungalow (actually a three-bedroom once we converted the small family room into a bedroom for my brother). It wasn’t the oddity of the unending plastic tube of my grandmother’s oxygen tank that snaked behind her from the bedroom wherever she walked in the compact living space. It wasn’t even the plastic covers on all the furniture (though those were an adventure themselves during hot summer months). Mostly it was the continual reminders of my grandmother’s mortality that popped up whenever you picked up an item in her home. At some point long before I can remember, my paternal grandmother had assigned future ownership of everything of importance in her home via tiny stickers with family members’ names on them.
I never coveted any particular item. I was too young to want most of them. I simply can remember admiring certain items and noting the son’s or daughter’s-in-law or grandchild’s name to whom it would one day be given. The large pink conch shell that she and my grandfather had purchased on their honeymoon would one day be bestowed on my aunt. Several large books of coins and stamps eventually went to my brother and my cousin.
At the time, I didn’t consider it odd to discover the mini reminders as I browsed her home because the labels had been around for as long as I could remember. And they weren’t morbid to me because I never connected them to my grandmother’s illness. But I suppose her emphysema must have made her aware of the limits of her life far earlier than most people her age (she was only in her mid 50s when she died).
Obviously, my grandmother was a planner. Perhaps she is the person who passed on that trait to me, though I’m not sure I can envision organizing my life to the degree my grandmother did. Nevertheless, I hope that I can leave a bit of myself with my grandchildren that brings back memories for them the same way my grandmother has done for me. She was quirky, no doubt. And I’m guessing that’s just one more trait she passed on to me.