To answer the question in a satisfactory way, I must first explain my grandmother.
My Grandmother. That first bite of sweet Georgia peaches, the smell of warm pecan pie, the tingle of camphor in the air, and my grandmother, with hands so telling of a woman's work. I am sure that there are memories hidden of her in my mind from before this, but I think my first real memory of her was returning from Portland to her house and seeing her on the porch drinking her coffee. It was the biggest house I had ever seen. When I walked into it, it glowed like overexposed film. It was almost shiny. I remember the carpet so soft beneath my feet, and feeling out of place because everyone was talking and excited, and they were all strangers to me. She looked old although she was only in her early fifties at the time. I remember staying up so late waiting for her to get off from work at the mill so I could spend the night. She would sit for hours and listen to me ramble about whatever a child finds exciting at that moment and she would bundle me up and let me fall asleep on her carpet in front of the tv. There are times when I am certain that my love for old movies comes directly from those sleepovers. I remeber hard spring rain pounding on her cement porch and listening for the ice cream truck while she gossiped with the neighbors. And as the holidays appraoched, preparing snap beans and pecans and watching her make cane syrup for the cold season. I never understood how she turned candy canes and Jack Daniels into the cure for the common cold but it always worked. Her mother had to be placed in a home, and as her Alzheimer's worsened, I experienced my first fears about aging, and death. I swore that I would never let that happen to my grandmother. But I grew up, and she moved out to Alabama to be near some family. Visits became less frequent. Even when her great big shiny house became my freedom, I wasn't able to get out to see her as often as I wanted to. The magic of my life had been replaced by rhetoric. I met my husband, and when he asked for me to be his wife I told my grandmother. She asked me why I wanted to do such a fool thing. I laughed. I guess you had to know her. She made me a blanket when I lost my first baby. She was supposed to teach me how to make pecan pie, but I couldn't make it out. Then she was gone. Her arms, that held the world, her voice, that told the truth were gone from me forever. And without that voice I am left with one hundred answerless questions. I wasn't speaking with my mother when she died, and I made up with her at news of the death. I was on my way to a wedding when I heard. Gram was cremated, and her service cemented my dislike of my aunt and Grandfather, who sent the offspring of the woman he left Gram for to the service. I didn't cry, although I have many times since. After the service, we went to my mother's house and went through some family photos.
That night I discovered who my Gram really was. The heartache was that it was too late. In these pictures I saw reflected her heartbreak, her lament, but most amazingly I saw her hope. I had always known her as an old, hard woman built to survive. Almost cynical in her ways. Yet here she was immortalized: young, happy, and hopeful. A woman whose husband had not yet abandoned her. A woman who had not yet hardened from years of working in a mill and going without. A woman with her life ahead of her, not behind her. They were sitting unloved in a drawer in her trailer. My mother believes that because Gram stopped taking her medication and drinking her coffee and smoking her cigarettes (staples in you knew her) she was putting her affair in order. Not that she was suiciding, but that she was prepared come what may. She knew her children were taken care of, and her job was essentially done.
Now, why do I do this? Well, Hanging Up is about three sisters and their ailing father. My mother has two sisters, and she reminds me of the main character. This was also the last movie my Gram watched before she died. I know, because I loaned it to her. If death was on her mind, this certainly didn't help. The main character finds solice in her family. Her family is drawn together in the loss. The recurring theme of my life has been the need for a family. A real family. One that loves me, that accepts me, that I feel ok in. Everytime I feel close to the brass ring, the ground crumbles beneath me. I felt love from my Gram, and now that's gone. One more stone where my heart should be. Maybe my mother was right, and my Gram was putting final affairs in order. But she missed the boat on this one. I need her. Now I only have the memories, and they haunt me. I know that my mother and I will never have that moment. Ever.
I can't make that pie. I try and try and no matter how good other people say it is I never get it right. It was a moment in time, and it has been spent. I would sell my soul for a good piece of pecan pie, with a cup of coffee in a kitchen where there's love. I hope she knows that.