Asher on Aspen: A Tribute to Grandma
Asher on Aspen
It was early Friday morning when I received the phone call. I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach upon answering. There was just something about the ringtone that sounded different. After consoling my mother and hanging up the phone, I unexpectedly broke down. Rolling over in my bed, I clutched my pillow and let out an ugly cry. The news of my grandmother passing away hit me with a punch and it took my breath away.
Seeking comfort, my first instinct was to call an old best friend who has a way of making me feel safe whenever things go grim. Trying to distract myself, I scrolled through Instagram mindlessly and nothing seemed important compared to the news that I had just been given. Everything that was posted seemed trivial. It felt like my world had stopped and I was baffled that the rest of the world kept going — a bizarre and illogical feeling.
My grandmother, Patricia Callahan, was a remarkable person. She raised seven children (three boys and four girls — one of them being my mother) with my grandfather at their home in Omaha. A home that my grandma lived in for nearly 60 years that had been used as the central gathering place for her seven children, 24 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. With the passing of her husband nearly 30 years ago, my grandmother’s death marks the end of an era for our family.
For as long as I can remember, we would spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house. She took great pride in hosting this annual party and it was expected for the whole family to be in attendance. Stepping over babies and presents, we piled into that house like sardines. The smell of oyster stew wafted throughout the house while children played and adults conversed. It was insanely chaotic and crowded, but no one in our family would have it any other way. She had this way of making everyone feel welcome in her home. I always looked forward to the moment when I got to hug her and say, “Merry Christmas, Grandma!” She would pat my back, smile really big and thank me for coming.
When the party died down, it was always a challenge to leave. Just when we thought we were close to walking out the door, she would think of another story to confer with my mother about. Once we did finally leave, she would stand at the doorway and wave to us as we loaded up the car. She wouldn’t close the door until our car was out of sight. I will never forget sitting in the car and watching her wave as we drove away. I thought it was the sweetest thing.
Growing up, my mom and grandma would spend hours talking to each other on the phone. I remember wondering how it was even possible for two people to talk on the phone that long. My grandmother loved to chat and visit with her family, and she was an especially great storyteller. Even if we had already heard the story five times before, I always enjoyed listening and hearing her voice. She had the most soothing voice and I can’t ever recall a time when she raised it or engaged in an argument. She was patient, kind, loving and incredibly humble. She taught me how important it is to be humble and how to really listen to people.
For the longest time, my sisters and I were thoroughly convinced that our grandma’s occupation was a professional waterslide tester. That’s right, we imagined that our grandma rode all the water slides at every water park in Omaha to ensure that they were safe and fun. Our uncle Danny told my sister this years ago and we all believed it for a large portion of our childhood. We used to think our grandma had the coolest job in the world. I even remember telling this to my friends at school. Once this joke was finally debunked, we laughed about it for hours with our family.
Our big Irish Catholic family brought her more joy than anything else. Well that, and of course, shopping. She loved to shop and find a good deal. We would often spend Black Friday with her where we would indulge in shopping sprees that ended with a lunch at her favorite spot, the Brazen Head Irish Pub. She was so proud of her Irish heritage and in turn, we all felt equally as honored to be Irish.
For those lucky enough to still have a grandmother alive, I hope this tribute encourages you to call them soon and tell them you love them, because you really never know when they’ll be gone for good. Wherever you are grandma, I know you are in a much better place. I will be forever grateful that I had you as my grandmother. Thank you for passing on your faith and love for Christ to all of us. You left behind an incredible legacy that I know we will all cherish and work hard to honor for years to come.