Nearing 90 years of life, she sat on the edge of her chair staring into my daughter's eyes as if there was some clue as to who she was.
"Whose baby is that?" my grandmother asked my aunt, who took great pleasure in presenting Bralynn while I waited to come into Grandma's sight. I stood there and had a brief moment of hope that even though she'd never met Bralynn, something in her aged heart would make her know that this was my baby, her great-grandchild.
But she didn't know her.
"Grandma, you don't know this beautiful little girl?" I called to her.
Without seeing me, she said: "Funmi. Funmi, is that you?"
I felt a relief that I pray I never forget.
Growing up, one of my favorite places was my grandmother's home, nestled in her arms. She had the best hugs, and she still does. I'm almost 39 now, and I can't help but prepare myself for a time when that place is no longer an option. Since Mama and Daddy are both gone, my grandmother is a precious jewel to me. I want to place her in a locked chest forever. I know that's impossible, so I try to prepare myself for a day when I'll have to unlock memories to be close to her.
"Yes, it's me!" I looked into the eyes of a woman who has traced life's winding road in a way I know the creator would marvel upon. She's witnessed her siblings' transitions, and favorite cousins have gone on before her. She has lived through the death of a child—a son, her first.
I sat outside alone with her caregiver for our catch-up session, which I'd come to cherish. Ms. Pat has all the goods on how G'ma is really doing, and I wanted to know the truth. Dementia is coming as she ages. It's hard for me to see the bad days, but I know they are there. I wanted to hear Ms. Pat tell me what happens when she slips. She explained to me that my grandmother, on bad days, forgets how to answer the phone. I remember when I lived with her: She was always on the phone chatting with her friends. Now, the phone gets on her nerves.
"She often speaks of her siblings and her mother," Ms. Pat explained. I never heard my grandmother speak about her mother. Dementia often takes its victims back to memories of early life. I find comfort in the idea that she's remembering being a daughter. I wish I could have a glimpse of a younger Evelyn prancing around with her beautiful smile and curves galore. That makes me smile.
Then, Ms. Pat started to explain how she listens to stories about my daddy. I began to feel a little sad, but it was nothing compared to hearing her discuss how much she hears about me. "Funmi, she talks about you all the time," Ms. Pat said.
I knew what that meant, but I couldn't respond.
It was a great visit with my grandmother this time. It always is. She is, finally, after all these years, starting to look like a grandmother. Although still beautiful and happy—at least when I am around—she is beginning to show signs of being an elder. I never really thought about that. I sort of just thought she'd always look the same, act the same and be the same grandma she's always been.
On the ride back home, my tears began. I know why she talks about me all the time. I know why our bond is so strong, and why there is such a connection between us. When she looks at me, she sees her child. She sees what's left of her son. In me, she sees the child that has gone before her. I'm sure, now, that she has always seen him in me. I believe that when I was born, the universe knew my father's life would be brief, so it breathed relief for her in me. She can find solace for his departure in my voice; in my eyes, she sees his face.
I can't imagine what it's like to say goodbye to a life that you've given birth to. My father's mother has existed in the pain of missing him daily. I've watched her cry when it's too much to look at me. I've cried with her. I've called her on his birthday because I know she's the only person in the world who could possibly understand the stinging pain of not having him with us.
The bond that rests in family bloodlines should never be crossed. It is our foundation, and it is to be valued and cherished. Our time here is short and, if we spend time on things that don't matter, we won't give time to the things that do matter.
You can make money, receive accolades and accomplish great things, but what really matters are the lives that touch you and those that you touch. Family is where that starts. While it's often hurtful to speak to her, I know how much my voice, my presence means to my grandma. I'm thankful to be such a gift.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows.