When I was born, my grandma came to live with my mom and me. Grandma became the other mother in my life, the one who cared for me while Mom worked, the one who (quite often) disciplined me, and the one who read to me at night.
My grandma was a simple woman, with little to her name. Most of what she’d owned had been lost in a fire many years before I was born. The few possessions that remained were a couple of modest dresses, braces for her polio-stricken legs, a wheelchair, and a black onyx necklace usually found dangling from her neck.
Grandma’s necklace was her treasure. I never knew where it came from, whether a gift from her husband, or the only item salvaged from the fire. But I knew if it was important to Grandma, it had to be special.
Grandma was almost always happy, smiling when she baked bread, and singing as she chopped veggies for a huge pot of soup. Even when she dragged her limp legs across the kitchen linoleum, wiping up mud from a growing family, she was filled with joy. Grandma taught me to be happy. But it was through the many games we played that I learned about life.
Grandma loved a good game of Yahtzee. She’d spit in the dice cup (for luck), toss the dice clear across the table, and yell, “Yahtzee!” (Often when she didn’t have it.) Laughter filled the air. Whether Yahtzee, Scrabble, or a card game, and whether she won or lost, she had a smile on her face. It is now I’m beginning to understand, it wasn’t the game, but the moments. It wasn’t the winning or losing, but the memories. I wish I’d known that then.
Grandma slipped away when I was in my early teens. I watched her as she took her last breath. When she was gone, my mom and her siblings gathered the few belongings left in Grandma’s room. Together, they presented me with the black onyx necklace.
I cherished that necklace and wore it often, a little black stone resting near my heart. Today, it sits in a box in my bedside table. Every once in a while, I pull the box out, feel the smooth stone between my fingers, caressing it as I did when I was little.
The onyx is a constant reminder of Grandma, a simple woman who owned little, and gave much. A woman who relished in the moments of life, who treasured not possessions, but people. A woman who kept only what was important.