Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I wasn’t planning on blogging about the last couple weeks, but then I realized that I’m writing this blog almost entirely for me (and for those of you who are reading too!). I know when I’m reading my blog in 5 or 10 or 20 years I’ll be glad I wrote it...

My Grandmother got very sick in the last couple months and I flew back to the United States on April 8th in hopes of spending a day or two with her before she passed away. Unfortunately she passed away on April 6th. When she got really sick I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t get to see her, but I wanted to fly home either way so I could spend time with my family.

The journey home is a story in itself:

The French train stations decided it would be a fabulous idea to go on strike the week I was flying to the US! I woke up at 4:30am on the 8th (that’s 10:30pm on the 7th in the U.S.) to take a taxi to the train station in Angers. I wanted to get there early just in case my train wasn’t running. Luckily I did because, guess what?! My train wasn’t running! My original train ticket would have left Angers at 6:45am and taken me straight to the airport…that would have been too easy. There was a nice woman that worked at the train station who gave me a ticket for the 6:08am train (I’m so glad I was early!). It took me to a different train station in Paris. Once I got to the train station I took the Metro and then I got on the RER (the city train) which took me to the airport. It was a long journey (much longer than anticipated!) carrying my luggage around! I finally made it to the airport in Paris and had to take an airport shuttle to the main terminal. Luckily, I made it to the gate with time to spare to grab a bite to eat…of course with the way my day had been going I didn’t eat the 1st sandwich I bought because it fell on the ground, but I enjoyed the 2nd sandwich I bought! Lol I flew from Paris to Amsterdam to Atlanta with hardly any problems. I landed in Atlanta at 5:30pm (US time) and my flight was leaving for Tampa at 7pm. I was very anxious because I had to go through border patrol & customs, wait for my bag at the baggage claim, re-check it, go through security, take the airport shuttle to my terminal (AND get Chickfila haha). I was sweating when I arrived at my gate, but I made it! I made it just in time to hear the announcement that my flight was delayed 2 hours!! As if the 10 hour flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta wasn’t long enough! lol! My cell phone didn’t work in the U.S. because my plan is suspended until I get back in June. I attempted to call my mom collect to let her know it was late and have her tell Monica because she was picking me up at the airport. I attempted to call about 4 times and failed. I could hear my mom say “hello” on the other end and press all the buttons the automated voice asked, but it never worked. I went and bought Chickfila 1) because I wanted it 2) It would give me change to make a phone call. So I tried to pay to make a phone call and it said that her number had been disconnected. Noo! Actually it hasn’t because I just called and heard her say hello on the other end! I also tried calling my sisters number and that didn’t work either! I was so frustrated so I decided to take a break and eat the chicken sandwich and waffle fries..delicioussss! I decided to try the pay phones at a different gate and it worked! I have no idea how! The pay phone was a different model so maybe that’s why…I’ll never know. If you’re ever at gate A10 in the Atlanta airport don’t use the payphones!!! The time went by quickly in the airport because I spent most of the time trying to make phone calls lol…no but really it was nice (and strange) to hear ENGLISH everywhere around me. I bought a couple gossip magazines (to catch up on news only American's care about..like Kate Gosselin ha!), and a big inexpensive bottle of water! I felt spoiled! When I walked back to A10 I noticed that the gate for my flight had been moved to E17…thank you Atlanta! There were many cranky people at the gate complaining about the changes. I obviously never wanted to have my flight delayed, but there was no point in getting mad at anyone. It wouldn’t have made anything better. One woman sitting by me at the gate was complaining because she got to the airport too early and she could have taken a nap…she lives in Atlanta. I wanted to hit her! At that point it had been 24 hours since I got up to start this journey…and she’s mad she got to the airport a couple hours early!?!? I finally got on the plane and made it to Tampa. I was SO excited to see Monica!! It was so nice! She was such a cute big sister! She had a “Welcome Back” balloon and a bag of goodies…Starbucks gift certificate, D’lites (frozen yogurt) gift certificate, some more delightful gossip magazines, and Bumble & Bumble hair products that I couldn’t bring to France with me. I loved it! We stayed the night at Uncle Phil’s house. I think I went to bed 27 or 28 hours after I started my journey. The next day we went to a Mexican restaurant (my choice!) for lunch with Aunt Sally, and Sam and Paula. After lunch we went to my Grandmother’s house to watch a slideshow of pictures from her 80th birthday party; I knew I would cry. Monica and I got on the road shortly after so we could get to Gainesville and have dinner with our Mom. Thank god we rushed because we got a flat tire as soon as we got on the interstate in Tampa...AWESOME! I usually don’t say this, but I just have the BEST luck! We stopped at a gas station and a nice man helped us put the spare tire on. It was a “donut” (? I act as if I know anything about cars) so we weren’t sure if we could drive all the way to Gainesville on it. The guy who switched our tire thought we would make it, but I’m sure he didn’t want to be responsible if something happened so he never gave us a definite answer. The owner of the gas station told us he called a guy that was coming to look at our tire and give us a used one to make it back home. He told us to sit in the cafĂ© next to the gas station while we waited. While we were in the cafe Brad called us and he told us that we would be fine to make it back to Gainesville. As soon as he said that we immediately relaxed. Even though we had gotten opinions from other people, we had complete trust in him. Thank God he didn’t tell us to drive off a cliff because we may have done it! Haha! As we were leaving the gas station trying to come up with a lie to tell the owner on why we were leaving, the guy who was going to give us a new tire pulled up. When we came out he said “I knew you must have been cute because he usually doesn’t go out of his way to help people.” Oh yes! Please help us! NOT! He was in jeans and a t-shirt and drove a van that looked like one of the kidnapping vans in movies. No chance in hell I was going to let him do anything with my car! Lol

Thanks to Brad (and Monica for driving!) we got on the road and made it safely to Gainesville. We went to Dragonfly Sushi with Mom and it was better than I remembered! I spent the next several days in Gainesville…seeing some friends, renewing my license, doing my taxes, sleeping and eating food I missed. My dad and Kirsten came back from France on Monday the 12th. I was able to see him while he was in France and we had a wonderful time. I met them in Paris the weekend before I left and they came to Angers during the week. I know it was hard for him not being by my Grandmothers side when she died, but I hope in 10 years he’s glad he made the trip to France.

Grandmother’s funeral was on the Saturday the 17th, and Dad and I went to Dunedin on the 15th. It was really nice to spend time with my family. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced, and cried some more. It was just weird. That word was said a lot. We all knew it would eventually happen, but we didn’t think it would. We spent most of the time in her house which also made it strange. Her house was the center of every family occasion. We always spent time there. Grandmother is really what kept our family so close. Throughout the weekend people said things like “I feel like she should just walk around the corner.” “I feel like she’s just on vacation and this isn’t really happening.” “It was weird not having her greet us at her door.” The funeral was really nice. My dad spoke and it was perfect. I heard him read the eulogy about 7 times before the funeral and I cried every time. It described her perfectly...it made us laugh and cry...she would have loved it!

I was heartbroken to know that I wasn’t able to see her before she died, but in a way I feel lucky that the last memories I have with her are when she was happy and healthy. I know she didn't want me to fly home to see her in her state, and maybe I wasn't suppossed to. Now the last memories I have with Grandmother are from Christmas. The whole family was together. There were little kids running around the whole time, which she loved! It was such a wonderful holiday and everyone enjoyed it. She was the PERFECT Grandmother. She was beautiful on the inside and out. She had the biggest heart; she was warm and kind, gentle and loving, funny and witty. She loved to know what we (her grandchildren) were doing in our lives. She loved hearing stories and I never felt judged about anything I was said. I’ve spent weeks at her house and I could talk to her about so much. When I worked in Atlanta for the summer she was excited to hear all about it. If there was any drama with work or roommates, she always listened to me vent about it. When I got my first tattoo she wanted to see it, and (although I’m not sure if she was telling the truth or not) she said she liked it. I’m not sure when, but she bought strawberries on one of my visits and I told her I loved them. From that point on there were strawberries in the house every time I was there. I remember when I was younger and we would go out shopping. She always wanted me to pick something out that she could pay for. She would get mad because I usually didn't pick anything out. I didn't want her to spend money on me, the time we spent together was what mattered to me the most. Fortunately, I have been able to spend a lot of the past 22 years with her and I will always cherish the memories I have. I know when I’m older and I have kids, and grandkids…I won’t be nearly as “Grand”, but I hope I’m a fraction of the Grandmother she was!