It was two days before New Year’s Eve 2016, my little family was pulling into the driveway of Grandma Barb and Papa Bob’s home — number 3530 — a white house with green shutters on the peninsula. We walked through the chilled, salty, night and up the brick steps to their front door. Through the glass shone the illuminated yellows of dim lamps and the bright orange of a warm fire in the living room — which had become Grandma Barb’s room, accommodating her hospital bed and allowing space for visitors, neighbors, family, friends, and hospice workers.
The porch light lit the faces of my children, 2 year old Nora, who had started smiling again only days before, after many long months of illness. And my Everett — my 4-month-old baby boy– content to be out of the car and in the cool night air.
How many babies did Grandma carry up these steps, home for the first time, I wondered to myself.
This was the home she raised her six children in, the home where she ran her mayoral campaign, chased her children around the yard, the home where I attended a city council committee meeting in her living room. The home she is now resting in, watching the trees sway, the coastal clouds fill the evening sky, waiting for Jesus to take her home.
As we entered the living room, we were greeted by Grandma’s aide, who immediately took Everett from my arms, laughing, smiling and cooing like she had known him all his life. He smiled back and laughed.
Grandma Barb was sitting in her wheelchair, facing the door, ready for us. She looked beautiful; comfortable and glad to see us. She has always been beautiful; her caramel skin was somehow spared from damage by the Long Beach, California sun as she she grew up swimming with dolphins and exploring the marinas in her small outboard motorboat.
In photographs you can see Grandma’s hair evolve from brown, platinum blonde, then white, and eventually to salt and pepper gray. She wore them all well. She had fabulous style. Even on this night, as we visited with her beside the fire, she wore her characteristically bright pink lipstick.
Grandma Barb never wore makeup. But she always wore lipstick.
She wore many tints and mattes, bright pink, red, matte, shimmer.
Even on hospice — enduring the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease – she wore her lipstick.
After applying it in her hospital bed, Grandma once (rhetorically I’m sure) asked my Dad, “Why am I so vain?”
But as an observer, and as her granddaughter, I do not think that Grandma wearing lipstick or keeping lipstick on the nightstand of her hospital bed made her vain. I think lipstick on the nightstand was something that made Grandma Barb feel more like herself, even when she wasn’t feeling like herself, as her body failed her.
At the close of 2014 I was a young, first time, mother of a medically complex little girl recently diagnosed with Aicardi Syndrome. As the year ended, she was having fewer seizures, but still daily seizures, experiencing global delays and struggling with severe feeding difficulties.
Grandma Barb endured various challenges and experienced many blessings. Every woman has a story. Every woman has her challenges and blessings. Every woman endures.
I started 2015 as a woman with one written resolution. A resolution made by a new mother thrown into deep waters– a resolution made by a woman starting to see herself for the first time– a resolution made by a woman who was not asking “Why me?” but was instead choosing to strive and to endure for her daughter and for her own wellness until she met Jesus face to face.
My one and only 2015 resolution was this: “Wear more lipstick.”