Grandma and Me

As raindrops slither down our kitchen window this December morning, I remember another rainy morning in December of last year. It was after breakfast that Grandma and I were going shopping for a Christmas present for Momma but I knew Grandma wasn't feeling well because her asthma was bothering her.

"Grandma," I said finishing my bannock, "we don't have to go shopping today if you don't feel up to it."

Grandma gave me a "pretend" indignant look and reached for her inhaler. She inhaled and said, "Now, Bessie, if you don't want to go shopping with Kookum, just say so, and I'll go by myself."

I could tell she was teasing. Kookum knew I'd been waiting for this day, and she wasn't going to disappoint her only granddaughter, in spite of how bad she felt.

"Okay, Kookum," I said, quickly gulping down the rest of my milk. "I'll get my raincoat."

"And wipe your 'milk-moustache mouth' young lady," Kookum reminded with a wink. "I'm not going to be seen walking down Main Street with a granddaughter who doesn't know her manners."

My grandma and I had a wonderful time. We bought Momma a beautiful tablecloth to use on our Christmas Day dinner table. Then Grandma surprised me and bought me a nice, warm jacket for school. When I protested and told her it was too expensive, she just hugged me and said, "I want you to have it."

Next, she treated me to pie and ice cream at Miss Maggie's Bakery Shop. As Grandma finished her last bite of pie, she began to cough so hard she couldn't seem to stop. Her face turned scarlet.

"Kookum, are you all right?" I patted her anxiously on her back.

"I'm fine, Bessie,"she said, gasping for breath and digging in her bag for her inhaler. After a few whiffs she breathed more easily. "It's a little warm in here for me," she said with a weak smile as she patted my hand. "Maybe we should go home, now."

"Sure, Kookum," I said picking up our packages. "I'm all through shopping. How about you?"

"Yes dear, I've done all the shopping I'm going to do, and don't you dare ask me for anything else!" she said smiling. I hadn't asked her for anything that day, but Grandma was teasing me again.

When we got home Grandma went to bed, but not before she gave me a hug and said, "This was a fun day. Let's do it more often?"

I smiled and nodded. Somehow, her request failed to take away my growing depression.

Later that evening as I walked toward Grandma's room to say goodnight, I heard Mother and Kookum talking. I slowed my footsteps, not wanting to disturb them.

"You and I both know she loves you more than anything in the world," Mother said softly. "She's going to be terribly hurt when the time comes."

They were talking about me.

"She's going to suspect something soon," Mother continued with a deep sigh. "Your symptoms are beginning to show."

"I know," Kookum said sadly. "I wish I could save Bessie the hurt. Let's try and keep it from her a little while longer."

My mind went blank. I felt numb as I turned and walked slowly down the hall to my room. Lying in bed, I couldn't sleep. I'd been dreading to face it, but it was true. Kookum was seriously ill.

I didn't sleep well that night, and Kookum slept in the next morning. When I finally came to the table, I guess I must have looked awful. I didn't say much. All through breakfast, Mother kept giving me worried glances.

I tried to keep myself busy that Saturday morning. First, I watered all the plants on the front porch. Then, I straightened up my room and tackled my messy closet. After that, I finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows for a book report at school. I didn't go to Grandma's room all day. Finally, in the afternoon, she asked for me.

When I stood in her doorway, she called playfully, "Come here, Bessie Dear!" She patted the side of her bed. Her eyes had the same old twinkle of humor, but she looked tired. "Are you mad at me, precious? You didn't come to see me all morning or last night." Grandma stuck out her lower lip and made a funny, pouting face. "Don't you love me anymore?"

"Oh, Kookum," I cried, throwing my arms around her neck. "You know I love you."

"Of course you do, darling," Grandma said smiling, as I drew back. She held my hands. "Sweetheart, I've been waiting to tell you something-and I think it's time you knew."

Tears gathered in my eyes.

"You already know, don't you," Kookum said.

I nodded sadly.

Suddenly, Grandma's face took on a wonderful expression. "Come," she said, scooting up on her pillow. "Put my other pillow behind this one, so I can sit up and look out the window. Tonight is Christmas Eve. Remember, dear? Tonight the star in heaven led the way to the Christ Child."

"I know, Kookum," I said, lifting her pillows higher. I remembered all through the years, Grandma always made Christmas Eve a special time of remembrance for the birth of the Christ Child.

Grandma gazed out the window and sighed. "I'll be going to my heavenly home soon, Bessie."

"Oh, Kookum," I cried, kneeling at her bed and throwing myself on her chest. "Don't say that. I can't think of letting you go."

"Bessie dear," Grandma chided, stroking my hair. "I'm going to be with Creator and someday, I'll see you there, too."

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I couldn't speak.

"Don't cry," Grandma said. "I'll be fine, and so will you."

Grandma went into a spasm of coughing and reached for her inhaler. She was with us through the Christmas holidays, but she grew weaker. In late January, she smiled and closed her eyes and went to be with her Heavenly Father.

It's been almost a year, and I think of my Kookum every day, especially now, during the holy Christmas season. I miss her so much, but I feel comforted because I know I will see Kookum again, someday.