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The last one out




Today, August 14th, is my grandma's birthday. She would be 103 today. She passed away in 2011 after a short battle with dementia and age. She was a bright light right up until she very suddenly wasn't. She went quickly which I'm really grateful for. I don't think I could've watched her deteriorate for a long time. After she left us, all the kids went through her house and found things that reminded us of her to take before the estate sale and the clean out. Before it got too scrambled up I took pictures of it, of all the rooms just as they were, like I remembered them. I took a video of the ceiling fan clicking on the back porch and the soft radio on the AM station playing Jones College Radio. I took a clip of the way the china cabinet rattled like wind chimes when you walked just a certain way past it. I don't know if anyone misses that house like I miss it. Growing up it became the only home I had. At first it was just for vacations or breaks, and then it was a stopping point for when my parents forgot about me or didn't want me anymore. I could always go back to Nina's House. I would sit on the back porch and curl up in her rocking chair - do the dishes, help make dinner. Before my grandfather passed away and when they were younger we would garden together, we would do chores in the backyard - go on walks around the block. When they got older I would drive them everywhere, taking them on errands and loading and unloading the car. I have fond memories of taking my grandma, my great aunt, and their neighbour, Ms Fern out on drives - listening to their stories of old Jacksonville, about how this road used to be dirt and now it's paved and a highway - about the construction of the Dames Point Bridge. They could remember everything. They had the best gossip. We would eat fried seafood and laugh and laugh and laugh. I would take them on grocery runs and take their carts back and make sure their seatbelts were buckled. I delivered extra leftovers, a frozen pound cake. The back bedroom at Nina's house was supposed to be a guest room but it just became Julie's Room. It was my room. With it's windows that faced Ms Fern's house and the street, that were caddy-corner and had gauzy curtains that my grandma had sewn years ago. It had a floral duvet on the bed that I made every day. White furnishings that were probably from the 50s still - the headboard matched the dresser with the giant mirror... it was mine. One of my favourite luxuries was the old tv with rabbit ears in the corner that had a VCR and was in black and white. It was old and probably became a fire hazard later on but it was mine and I loved turning it on and watching tv as I laid in bed. Before there were cell phones and iPads and laptop computers there was that tv. Every time I left, Nina would walk out on the front porch and she would wave until I was completely out of sight, until I turned onto Tallulah Ave. The last time I stayed there I remember putting in Dead Poet's Society - she had it on VHS and I was laughing at that, so delighted by it and I put it on to fall asleep to. I've always loved the movie. I didn't think anything of it. I didn't think it would be the last time I was there. And the last time I was there, after she was gone, I opened the VCR and Dead Poet's Society was still there. It's one of the things I took. I don't have a VCR to watch it, but it still meant a lot to keep it. That it was my room up until the very end.

I hope whoever lives there now loves the house as much as I did. I hope they lay on the sun porch and can still feel the humidity of the kept African violets and orchids that grew there. I hope they go in the back yard and have adventures there, and make believe. I hope there are dogs again. I hope someone is watching movies late at night in bed. More than anything I just miss my grandma and I hope she's having a happy birthday wherever and however she is.

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