for Emma

Last night, at about 6:30 p.m., my Grandmother, Emma, passed away.

My Grandmother was the type of woman who would give you an almost suffocating bear hug the minute you walked through her door, and then immediately ask what you were drinking.

My Grandmother was also the type of woman who would buy her wedding dress via the Sears catalogue, wear it to her wedding and then return it the next day.

She used to tell me how when things were really bad during the depression, they would save the wrappers from clementine oranges and use them as toilet paper. I think she enjoyed telling me that story.

I was my Grandmother’s only Granddaughter, a point she reminded me of each time I saw her. The last time I saw her, her health had deteriorated and she was no longer the plump, boisterous woman I once knew her to be. Before I arrived that day, she had managed to lose her teeth, and I was sent on a ridiculous quest to find them. Despite her apparent embarrassment of being seen without her teeth (truth be told, I had only ever seen her once before without them), she was quick to laugh it off. My Grandmother laughed easy, loved hard, and spoke her mind.

My Grandmother was a Grandmother in every sense of the word – wherever she was, there were plates and plates of homemade food - cabbage rolls, perogies, buns, sausage, pickles, cakes, donuts and cream puffs. Under her roof, there were two constants: an abundance of food, and a constant game of Farmer’s Rummy. I’ve played it a few times, but only remember winning once, much to my Grandfather’s chagrin. That fistful of dimes was pure gold to me.

My Grandmother was endlessly giving, and showed her love for us with food. When she discovered my weakness for her cucumber pickles, she went out of her way to ensure I always had a well-stocked pantry. Her pickle jars have followed me to University, to Calgary, to New York, and to Montreal.

The parties at my Grandmother’s house would last long into the night, but I would always hear the floor creak beneath her early in the morning, as she drank coffee, smoked her morning cigarette and got breakfast ready for the crowd who still lay sleeping.

Her house was always full – full of friends, full of laughter, full of life, full of food, full of an endless amount of love.

My Grandfather and she built that house together, as well as the memories they shared beneath its high rafters. Although I’m uncertain if I will ever return to their home or to that sleepy town - still sleepy after all of those late-night parties - I know that somewhere where I can’t see her, her heart is full too, filled with memories and the best parts of all of us, still sleeping under her watch.

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