I know, I know. I’ve been slacking. But to be fair, I’ve had quite a hectic month! Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but regardless, I kept moving forward.
Let’s start with the good. For the first time in two years, I ran a 5K! For all you runners out there, this might not sound like much. Hell, for past-Audrey, it doesn’t sound like much. But as someone who hasn’t been able to run in almost two years due to a back injury, this was quite an accomplishment!
My friend Carolyn, who has gotten crazy into running over the past few years, starting inviting a group of us to come down to a Turkey Trot fun run, sponsored by the Olean YMCA, that is held every year at St. Bonaventure University. I was allowed a pass last year because I was still recovering from surgery, but it expired. I have to say, this year was a million times more pleasant than the last time I did it in 2013, solely because it was about 30 degrees warmer! I was initially planning to walk the course, but once the race kicked off and I was surrounded by runners, I couldn’t help it. I had to run! I didn’t really intend on continuing to run. Aside from those two days in September where I worked from home during the Pope’s visit, I have literally not run in two years. But I was so inspired by everyone running around me, it felt good, and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” on repeat kept my legs moving! I didn’t time myself, but was told I finished in right around 30 minutes. For someone who hasn’t run in a very long time, I was pretty proud of myself. And even more sore afterward! But that didn’t stop me from beating me dad in tennis the next day (to his chagrin)! Though admittedly, I probably wasn’t moving as quickly as I normally would, I still had a blast (and won hehe).
So that was the good part of Thanksgiving. The bad part was, I found out my grandma was in the hospital dying. She suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is a respiratory disease caused by smoking that makes it hard to breathe, for a long time, and had been in and out of the hospital for the past two years. I knew when I got home the night before that she was in the hospital, but it hadn’t worried me much because it had almost become normal. On Thanksgiving morning after the Turkey Trot, my aunt told me she was dying. She decided that she had had enough and didn’t want to fight anymore. She declined treatment and wouldn’t see anyone aside from my mom, who was there with her for two days straight, never leaving her side, until she passed away.
I know it seems like this doesn’t have much to do with bettering my life, but I think that it does, for a few reasons. My grandma was the kindest person I have ever met. Honestly, I would have told you that before she died as well. She loved everyone, so much. Even if they didn’t seem to deserve it. She would forgive you anything. If any of us (she had 11 children and many, many grandchildren, so that is “us”) brought a friend or boyfriend or girlfriend over, she automatically liked them. They were now part of the family, and welcome always.
Her door was always open. I realized after she died that there has never been anywhere else aside from my parents’ house where I could literally just show up and walk in the door. No questions asked, no knocking required. She had an open door policy and it was always a hub for family to meet up. It was rare to find her there alone; she always had people stopping by. When I lived at home during the summers during college, I’d stop by for coffee after work all the time. We’d chat for hours, and she’d tell me about her life as a child, or about when her kids were young, or about what was going on in my life at that time. I felt like I could tell her anything and she’d understand. I could totally be myself with her.
She was also, until the end, very much invested in having fun. I am so incredibly lucky to have known her as an adult. There was a tradition in my family to hang out at my grandma’s house every fourth of July because she lived across the street from the river where the fireworks were lit off, so everyone would come by for a barbecue beforehand. She was the first one to start off the beer pong and one of the last standing. Her town was also known for its church festivals during the summer months, which were essentially huge parties that served as fundraisers. I’d go with her every year, and it was questionable which of us had more beers, and which of us had more fun. She was known to dance up a storm, do a bit of gambling (especially trying to win the homemade cakes that were up for grabs) and chat up the whole town. She was an absolute doll.
My point is, although my grandma is gone, there is so much she leaves behind. I’m incredibly sad to have lost her, but I can’t fault her for deciding that it was her time to go. If I can exude even a shred of the kindness, forgiveness, capacity to welcome and love so many people and the zest for life that she did, there is no doubt that I will live a full life. She had such an incredible capacity for love. All of us could stand to be a bit more like her, and I hope that I can be.