Monday, March 7, 2016

To My Grandmother

I was a kid in elementary school when all of my friends began to get into a little game called Pokemon. It was in every issue of Nintendo Power, it was slammed in your face during cartoons, and it was getting bigger every day. Envious, I watched my friends playing this game on the way to school and brag about their latest catch at lunch. Sadly, my birthday was a long way off and Christmas was even farther.  I felt I would never get to play during the "hot streak" of its time, in that small one month window when everyone is just getting into the game itself.

On a trip to my Grandmother's house one weekend, I remember bragging about the game to her. I went over the different things you could do, showing her the game cover in the magazine, and the awesome world that you could explore. It was obviously pandering and she knew it, but she feigned interest nonetheless. My dad was quick to shut it down, as he should have, and I thought nothing of it.

A few days later there was a package in the mail addressed to myself and my brother. In his package, a brand new copy of Pokemon Blue. In mine, Pokemon Red.

I was in absolute shock. Here was this game I was yearning to play, and in that knowledge my Grandmother shelled out the sixty or so dollars so my brother and I would get to be a part of the hype. She was not a rich woman by any means, this obviously meant she had sacrificed something to bring this game to us.

I was on the phone, elated, and thanking her over and over again ignoring sentence structure and rambling off every synonym of thanks I could conjure. She laughed and said she hoped I enjoyed it before I slammed in fresh batteries and darted off to play.

I played that game all weekend. Curled up on a couch near a lamp I was catching new Pokemon, defeating each gym leader, and indulging in what would become the first game in one of the biggest franchises in video game history.

It was all thanks to her.

I reflected on that this past holiday, as I sat with her and shared that same laugh with my wife at my side.

I valued it more a week later, when I got a call that on Christmas Eve she had been rushed to the hospital with the signs of a stroke.

I held it close, as I received update after update of extended family arguing over what she would have wanted, as she was put on a ventilator with no acting will.

I cherish it, as I got the news that she was taken off of that ventilator today, and passed away shortly after its removal.

She did not just want to buy me something to spoil me back then, it was not an attempt to gain favor, a gesture expecting repayment. Instead, it was an encouragement. An encouragement to the imagination, the excitement that I held as a kid. She saw how much a simple video game could spark in a kid just by my small description and response that one weekend, and she wanted to keep that alive.

She succeeded in helping keep that alive.

I could go through a number of situations in which her selflessness was showcased, be it the expectant birthday card every single year even when she could barely write her name, to the huge smile that would greet me every holiday visit. A kindness that I would attempt to repay with my own cards and gifts to brighten her day.

I felt compelled to write something, anything concrete to her. A dedication of sorts; a thank you. For the years of unwavering generosity, infectious joy, and the ability to keep one grandchilds' dreams fueled with a simple act that would resonate for years to come.

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