She's not my real grandma. But don't tell her that. Or me, either. She's known me since the day I came home from the hospital and she's loved me every day since. Childhood memories of summer almost always have her house as the setting.
Sitting on the porch trying to keep cool. Running through the yard catching fire flies. Climbing trees and having crab apple fights with my brothers. Pumping water from the well and splashing around to cool ourselves off. Playing in the barn on tractors and combines and acting out scenes from "The Fall Guy". Tables full of Grandma's delicious food and lots of people to share it with. Sitting on Grandpa's lap and listening to fairy tales read from the big book. Picking vegetables from the garden and thinking that there was no way we could eat all those tomatoes.
These are the memories that helped define my life, that give me a sense of belonging and an understanding of what home is.
We went to visit Grandma on Sunday and her presence, all 4' 10" of it, is a comfort to me even still. Watching Haven and Grandma walk down the hallway, hand-in-hand, makes me aware of the flow of life in a new way. Hearing Grandma say my name in the way only she does makes me feel like I'm five again, standing in her kitchen. Kath-a-leen. Seeing the way her eyes light up when we talk about days gone by and knowing that we all miss the same people who fill those memories with love.
She taught my parents, and thus, my brothers and I, that family doesn't just mean the people you share a biological connection with.
She is my grandma.