One day, I was sorting through some old family photos. I had promised my aunt that I would have them for her by this weekend so she could "scrapbook" them for me. It was a hobby she enjoyed and so all my photos went to her.
My daughter, Anna, was helping me. She was flipping through a pile I had already sorted when she stopped and held one up for me to see. "Who's this?"
I glanced up. "That's my Gamma. Haven't you seen a picture of her before?"
She shook her head. "What's happening here?" She handed it to me so I could look at it more closely.
"I took this one on her 80th birthday. We had a surprise party for her at the Holiday Inn."
"Boy, that must've been a big deal." She took the photo back.
"Yes, it was. I remember Aunt Delia went to a lot of trouble to pull it off."
Anna grinned. "Will you tell me about it?"
I ruffled her hair. "Sure." She settled back on the couch.
My cousin, Max, burst through the hotel doors. "She's coming!" he yelled as he scooted in next to his sister, Lisa. She rolled her eyes when she saw me looking over, then grinned. She was just as excited as he was. I grinned back.
It was my grandmother's 80th birthday today and Aunt Delia planned the whole thing. She had called every single family member and ordered them, on pain of death, to be here. When she called me, I knew I couldn't tell her "no." My grandmother was a pretty special lady. She had been my mother and father when mine had died.
The whole family made it, yet as amazing as that feat was, it was a piece of cake compared to getting Gamma to be here. Yes, that's what we call her – Gamma. It all started when my cousin, Izzy, couldn't say her "R"s. Gamma made us all drop the "R" in her name so poor Izzy wouldn't feel bad. That's just how Gamma is, always thinking of the other person.
Aunt Delia had a heck of a time trying to come up with a plan to get Gamma to the party. She finally hit on it. She called Gamma's brother, Uncle Dozy (I have no idea where that name came from, so don't ask me), to come and act as bait. Now, Uncle Dozy is Gamma's only sibling and he's very fond of his little sister. When Aunt Delia asked him to come, he said yes. All he had to do was come for a visit, get a room at the Holiday Inn, and ask Gamma to come pick him up. I told Aunt Delia she was a genius. She simply said, "I know."
I stood next to Aunt Delia when Max made his announcement. She nudged me. "Better get that camera ready. I want a shot of her face when she comes in." There was a wicked twinkle in her eyes. I laughed and held up my camera.
Suddenly, there was a scuffling sound as the younger cousins scrambled from the door. I watched Gamma coming through my viewfinder. She was in a rush because she was a little late. She stopped right in front of the door and smoothed her hair, using her reflection. One of the younger cousins giggled beside me. I don't know if it was from suppressed excitement or if he was laughing at Gamma. I suspected the latter, so I kicked his ankle to quiet him.
"Get ready," whispered Aunt Delia. I firmed up my grip on the camera. We each tool a breath as Gamma opened the door.
"SURPRISE!!" My camera flashed at just the right moment, catching the most beautiful smile on Gamma's face.
"So Gamma liked the surprise?" asked Anna.
"She sure did. I was glad we did it for her, because that was the last time I saw her."
Anna sat up. "Really? What happened?"
"Gamma had a heart attack the next day and it killed her." I thought of Gamma's smile. "I've missed her so much."
"Oh." Anna looked at the photo again.
I looked at her. "You're just like her, you know."
"I am?" Anna sat a little straighter.
"Yes." I smiled. "And I thank God for you every day."
She leaned over and hugged me. "I love you, Mom."
I hugged my daughter close to me. "I love you too, sweetheart."
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