Looking at a picture of me in my wedding gown, my grandmother told me that I belonged in Vogue magazine. I couldn’t believe that she said that. But, really, I could believe it. Since I had been a baby, my grandmother Ababel had been telling me how special and beautiful and wonderful I am.
So it should have been no surprise, when I gave her a picture of me as a bride, standing awkwardly on the rocks in Maine, smiling for the camera, that she said that I belonged in Vogue.
I was special just because I was her granddaughter. And she recounted with great pride the phone call she received on October 27th 1966, from my dad telling her that she was a grandmother. And, how she and Georgie, my late grandfather, flew to Boston to meet Megan Elizabeth. Who, by the way, was the most stunningly gorgeous baby in the whole world. I know because Ababel told me so.
And she would tell anyone who would listen about this spunky little girl with the beatific smile, prancing around in her white “glubs” and patent leather shoes. This precious girl who went to say her grandmother Isabel’s name and uttered it as only she could, a few melodious toddler-like syllables: Ababel.
Once, my sister and I flew to Pennsylvania alone, and were treated like royalty, wearing badges that said Flying Solo. The flight staff doted on us continuously, giving us extra bags of peanuts and cups of ice with soda. We assumed that they must have known Georgie and Ababel, who had been waiting for us in the airport window, probably before the plane even left Boston. I remember stepping off the plane feeling like a celebrity. Which is easy to understand, really: they had actually submitted an article to their local paper about our visit.
Even recently, I would get phone calls from Ababel wherein she would tell me how special and important I have always been to her, transmitting feelings to me that only a doting grandmother truly can. No matter where I went or what I did, she praised me and prayed for me.
I traveled to Dominican Republic to dig latrines for people living in impoverished rural areas. Ababel treated me like I was in the United Nations. After college, I drove to Florida to live on my own for a while, stopping in Pennsylvania on the way down for some food, a place to stay, and a dose of grand-parenting, which came freely and lovingly. Any doubts I had about succeeding on my own melted away in the glow of Ababel and Georgie’s affection. My car loaded with sandwiches, drinks and a healthy ego, I was ready for anything.
It was well-known that babies and animals loved and were comforted by Ababel. On my refrigerator, I keep a precious worn photo of her, as she gently rocks my contented three-month-old daughter to sleep.
My young son once caressed her arm and asked her why her skin was so smooth. She erupted into laughter, and then called her friends to brag about this little gentleman who had unwittingly earned a place in her already-crowded heart.
Lately, she had grown weaker and was unable to write, but she called to check in, and whenever I called her, she made me feel as welcome as I did when I was five. Oh Megan, I was just thinking about you. You’ve made my day. She always apologized for running up my phone bill, while never making me feel like she wanted to get off the phone.
And every phone call ended with her reminding me how special I was and singing I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…with a request that I hug everyone in my family for her.
When I got the call last Wednesday, that Ababel was failing, I was surprised, but not completely unprepared. I had talked to her the day before and I could hear the strain in her voice, the labor in her breath. I could also hear something else. Concern. But it was for something unexpected.
She was aware that my son’s birthday was approaching, and I sensed her concern that she was going to die or otherwise interfere with his birthday. You see, she was always the grandmother, now great grandmother, ever the guardian of the little children in our family.
She knew how special a birthday was for a little boy, as well as how meaningful it would be for his mother, the baby she had first held on that October afternoon over forty years ago.
Relying on advice that she had always given me, I reminded her that she shouldn’t worry because things always have a way of working out, exactly the way they are supposed to. Agreeing, in her most cheerful voice, she began her song to me I love you a bushel and a peck…
She died the next day surrounded by her family, a lucky handful who had only known life while enveloped in her warmth. Her angels came swiftly, the way we had all hoped, a unique celestial flight staff, doting on this beautiful lady. Our family imagined her on her way to see Georgie, waiting for her in the window, probably since before her flight even began.
On my journey, flying solo, this girl without a grandmother, I comfort myself with memories of being adored and cherished. I remind myself that while I won’t find her in her recliner or on the other end of the phone, I will always have what she gave me. I am a Vogue model, a world-class traveler, a beautiful girl, and a truly special person. Just because I was her granddaughter.
Megan Davis Collins wrote this column in loving memory of Isabel Richardson Davis, who died on July 2, 2008, at the age of 94