Is "homesick" a weird word to use how you feel after someone dies? Probably. But, today, in my life, it is true anyhow.
My dad served in the Air Force for the first 16 years of my life, so we moved around a good bit. By Air Force standards, it really wasn't too bad, we only moved in the summer, so we didn't miss school and I had only lived in 4 states and overseas twice by my Junior year of high school. And, I thought it was normal. All my friends were air force kids too, so it wasn't a big deal. We even had a cross-stitch picture on the wall that said "Home is where the Air Force Sends you". So. home was where I was, kind of. But I had another "home" too, in the person of my dad's mom, Grammy.
My Grammy and Grampy lived in the same pinkish brick, tile roofed house my whole life and their home was where I spend almost every vacation growing up, where we lived while we awaited temporary housing and was my "dorm" during my college years. Being with them was comfortable, familiar and gave me a sense of consistency. But their home, as much as I love it, wasn't "home" as much as they were.
Both of my grandparents were amazing people. Growing up, I thought they could do no wrong. There is an old country song, "He Walked on Water" by Randy Travis and I believed it was written all about Grampy. He's been gone now since 1997. He was there for my college graduation, smiling as proud as if it was his diploma, but he was gone shortly after that.
When the cancer took him, I really wasn't sure that my Grammy would make it. I guess I had forgotten how strong she always was. She lasted for nearly 15 years without him by her side, most of that time in her own home. "All my memories are here", she'd say, and "it all reminds me of him". They had made thousands of memories together, for over 50 years, they'd lived their lives together. Some of their memories were hard ones too, the loss of their parents, the suicide of a granddaughter, their son's two divorces, but through it all they had each other. It was hard for her when he was gone.
She was, I think, the strongest woman I have ever known. She grew up dirt poor. She was the oldest child of only five and frequently had to work to help support the family. She told stories of her father arguing that she should be paid a full "man's wage" for picking cotton, since she could pick as well as any man. She hunted and gardened and, at least once, was hired out as a domestic servant to help feed her family. When she met and married my Grampy, she was able to escape the life of such hard labor. She often said "Marrying him is the best thing that ever happened to me", but that had more to do with loving him than escaping hardship.
I think that one of the main reasons that she helped me feel so rooted was that she didn't ever try to bind me to her. Her mother had been an angry, controlling woman, who frequently used guilt to get her children to come see her or do what she thought they should. But Grammy was the complete opposite. She made up her mind that she wasn't going to be that way, and wasn't. She often commented that she wanted her children and grandchildren to come see her when and if they could. She never made me feel guilty if it had been a while, and was as happy to see me if it had been 4 hours as if it had been much, much longer. It was really amazing to feel that the relationship was built on mutual adoration, not a familial obligation.
Going to see her was always so fun, partly just because I could eat whatever I wanted! She was an amazing cook, and I am extremely proud that I can make a chocolate pie she'd be proud of, passable cream puffs and excellent empanadas. All from her recipes, and all from seeing her do it, hundreds and hundreds of times. Maybe one day I'll master fried okra. I'd wake up in the morning and she'd ask what I wanted for breakfast, and for a number of years was able to eat what she called "a bull's breakfast", which usually meant I'd eaten nearly my body weight in eggs, sausage and toast. By the end of breakfast, she had supper planned and lunch was just whatever was in the fridge, but in between meals, oh the glory! We'd make teacakes, or angel food cake, or jellies from the fruits of Grampy's garden, or just get an ice cream sandwich from the certain spot in the deep freeze!
She had a way of making everyone feel so welcomed and accepted with her. I grew up knowing, beyond any doubt, that I was loved. She used to say "I don't have a favorite, but you are kinda special." I loved that, and believed it. It was years before I finally realized that she said that to all of us, and meant it every single time. I may not have been her favorite, but SHE was someone special, and she will be terribly missed.