My maternal grandmother passed away shortly before Christmas five years ago. At the end of her life, she wasn’t even five feet tall, but everyone who came in contact with her knew on sight that she was a force of nature. Even at 92, she was constantly on the move, had a vast circle of loyal friends, and was very clear about what she liked and what she didn’t. Her unwavering sense of tradition continues to bind my family together, even today.
That Christmas, only a couple of weeks after Grandma died, I was talking to my mom about plans for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. Mom was going down the list of which family members were bringing what dish, and at one point she said, “…and Cindy will be bringing the potatoes.” I was confused for a minute. That wasn’t right. Why would Cindy bring the potatoes? Grandma always brings the potatoes. Then I remembered.
Five years later, I still have moments like that.
In addition to her love for family, for handbags and Italian shoes, for travel, and for fine glassware, my Grandma had a deep affection for Scotch whiskey. One of her trademark moves was to sit in the midst of a family gathering, usually in the comfiest chair in the room and at the center of whatever was happening. When her glass would run low, she’d raise it in the direction of any unlucky person who happened to be nearby, shake it back and forth and bellow, “Who’s going to make me another drink?” The rattle of ice in an empty glass, with a back beat of jangling charm bracelets, will always be pure Grandma to me.
After she died, when we were moving everything out of her condominium, I found a bottle of Chivas Regal, still in the box, in her pantry closet. Most of the rest of the closet had already been cleared out, and, since nobody else seemed to want it, I took the Scotch, even though I’m not much of a drinker. I figured it might make a nice gift for somebody, someday. I took it home, put it in a seldom-used cupboard, and forgot about it.
Then last week I decided to build the season’s first fire in our fireplace. It was a quiet Sunday evening after a long week, the house was reasonably clean, the laundry and dishes were done, and as I relaxed in front of the fire, I remembered that bottle of Scotch. A little of that over ice would taste pretty good just then.
I hesitated for a moment, debating whether I wanted to ruin its potential as a gift by opening the bottle, but finally decided that if I hadn’t given it away in five years, I probably wasn’t going to. So I got out the step-stool, found the box in the back of the high cupboard, brought it down and opened it. Then I laughed.
The bottle, it was half empty.
Of course it was.
So it ended up being a gift after all. Thanks, Grandma.