There’s a fly buzzing around my kids’ heads at the kitchen table. They jerk reflexively out of its path, but know better than to swat at it. “Is that Grandma?” My eight year-old asks.
I shrug a knowing, little smile. “Could be. Either way, the fly is our friend.”
“But grandma keeps going around my head. It’s annoying,” complains my oldest son.
“Maybe she wants to say she’s thinking of you.”
He nods, somewhat appeased.
“Or,” I reconsider. “That you need a haircut. Yup, that’s it.”
“Aw. Come on!” He protests.
“Blame Grandma.” I say and push the hair from his eyes.
“I want gramma!” mumbles my five year-old with a mouthful of macaroni.
I look at them warmly and feel a spark of my grandmother’s pride. I am now the matriarch of my own beautiful clan. Beautiful and innocent. It is the gift of childhood; my stuffed animals are really alive, why can’t grandma be a fly?
Of course, she wasn’t always a fly. For all my years, she was the Queen Bee. Grandma Bebe – the most wonderful, fascinating and formidable woman I ever had the honor to know, love and be loved by; a woman from an era of class and balls rarely seen today.
For years before she passed, she was home bound, long-suffering with her hip, back and other calamities of age that do its best to damage life’s dignity. My grandmother refused to be diminished, certainly not in people’s eyes. Instead, she refused visits and exercised her influence from the phone.
It was she who insisted, wistfully when she longed to see me or my children or spitefully when I was brave (or stupid) enough to poo-poo her power, that she would return as a fly on my wall and make sure things were as they should, meaning as she liked. If they weren’t, well, the implication was threatening. I wondered if she could still throw shoes from the after-life.
It was a month after she passed, on a cold winter day that brought night before its time. I was on the phone with my father. He was troubled, which meant trouble for me. As I heated up with frustration, a fly from nowhere, circled my body and landed on my hand. It rested there and as I gaped, it stared back. Grandma had come to comfort me. I accepted it as I accepted the sun.
So grandma is a fly, as well as the lox on my bagel, and licking my lips before chocolate cake and scratching the backs of my boys. She’s living and breathing in my heart. I hear her smoky voice in my head, or her words coming from my cousin’s mouth. I miss her presence, but I do love knowing that sometimes she’ll still fly down for a visit and buzz “What’s doing, pussycat?” in my ear.