It all started with a laugh. It was lighthearted, merry, and so very, very friendly. And recognizable.
Like many college freshmen, I knew no other way to spend that following summer except to “sort of” stay with my family. While my parents and siblings gave me celebrity-status for simply being back in town, I wasn’t sure where to plug in. It felt weird. Eventually I ended up spending those few months at Grandma’s house. She was a new widow (God rest Grandpa’s soul), and she seemed glad for the company. Besides, we’d always been close.
I’d never actually lived with Grandma before, so of course the whole experience was very enlightening. For both of us. One thing I hadn’t realized was how thoroughly nurturing she was. On those nights I’d return late from somewhere, she’d leave a little handwritten note on the counter, telling me she’d tucked dinner in the fridge and directions on how to warm it. She always set a cup of water by my bed “in case you get thirsty in the dark.” She never neglected to inform me when it might be “sweater weather.” I was touched and amused. Except for that one really awkward time when she asked me, as I walked out the door with my date, “How are you going to wear your hair tonight?”
“Ummm…like this,” I said.
Which brings me to the subject of dating. I have a wonderful memory of wiping glass doors in her house while we swapped opinions on the four or five guys who occasionally stopped by to visit me. Feeling indifferent about a couple of them had brought me a bit of guilt. They were great guys! But she reassured me that my feelings were okay. “You can’t just date to look for someone to match up with. Sometimes you just have to go have fun,” she said. “You can’t make yourself fall in love with someone.”
Then she added a funny story about “a young fellow I used to date who showed up at my house wearing a riding habit. I could never get over it. I couldn’t date him again.”
“You mean like…a British riding habit–?” i inquired, trying to envision what that would look like in the 1930’s.
“Yes, and I don’t know if he thought it would impress me or what, but my feelings just ended for him after that.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. It really did make me feel a lot better.
So one of these guys took me to a landmark in Salt Lake City called the “Hansen Planetarium.” I’d been there plenty of times. The seating area was small and circular, and the show always began with the audience sitting in utter darkness. A strange, lumpy machine then ascends dramatically from the floor. During those moments, as we wait in suspense for an amazing star show that never disappoints, a ^hush^ typically settles across the room. Maybe it was the manufactured darkness on what was actually a sunny afternoon. But on that particular day my life suddenly felt somber and gloomy. I immersed myself in the loneliness.
That’s when I heard the laugh. Right there in the blackness of the room, seconds before the mysterious machine enlivened the ceiling with starry galaxies, this joyous peal of uninhibited laughter burst forth directly in front of me. Seconds later, when the room was lit with the pseudo Milky Way, I took a good hard look at the person in front of me.
With my hand on her shoulder, her beautiful silvery head turned and grinned at me. There she was, sitting next to an elderly gentleman who lived about two houses down from her. Well, look at that, my Grandma was out on a date having fun, too!
We giggled with the utter shock of it. Of all the places we could’ve been, here we were together! Somehow the experience underlined for me her sage advice.
God rest Grandma’s soul, too.