My Nana was my father's mom.
Nana was always the light of our family. She was a mean cook, had a beautiful voice in the church's choir, and was one of the best grandparents around. Having her and her long time boyfriend Robert was amazing. Although Papa, my father's father, passed away years before I was born, I always felt he was still around and often helped Robert with Nana and the children of our family. Even visiting Nana's house, where Papa sadly passed away at, I always felt very comfy. I always knew if something was wrong, Nana's house would be my 1st choice to run to.
Mid July, I noticed Nana had an oxygen tank. This wasn't surprising seeing as my grandmother, my mother's mom, had one and I assumed once you got older you needed help breathing sometimes or she had come down with a chest cold. When we left her house she hugged me tight and said "Nana Loves". Something she told all of us grandkids when we left her house. I told her we'd see her again soon and we left her house. If I knew that'd be the last time I'd see her, I wouldn't have left. It wasn't until years later when I was an adult filling out medical info that I learned she had been diagnosed with non smokers lung cancer around the time she had the tank.
On my father's 41st birthday, a few weeks later, Nana passed away suddenly. I was told the day before she was at a hospital and was very sick. But being 9 years old and seeing my Grandma in and out of the hospital for various colds and breathing issues; I thought Nana would be out in a few days and back at home. The next day I was called in from outside (back when kids actually played outside until dark) to be dealt with the worst news. She had passed away and dad was coming home. To this day the image of my father walking into my room with his head down low as he sat beside me and let me cry with him will haunt me. I have only seen my dad cry 3 times in my life, this being the 1st time. I wasn't able to go to her funeral as I had come down with Strep... For the 4th time that year. I still feel guilty I couldn't say goodbye, even more so after learning she was cremated.
Years later I was an adult at the ripe age of 22. Nana had been gone for years and the items I had taken from her house, including a grey bear that I slept with when I spent the night, had lost the scent of her. I was living in a rough part of Dayton in a crappy duplex that my ill father in law rented. At the time he was being nursed back to health following a stroke and other health issues and my fiancé's baby brother and sister were with their mother for the week. So, 90% of the time, it was just my fiancé and I with his little siblings off and on... Mostly on. This night it was just us.
We opted to clean up the house one night and ordered some food to enjoy what we called a "Pseudo Mom and Dad night" (Not to go into too much, but my baby brother and sister's mother is an unfit mother. We were raising them while their father was in and out of the hospital and when their mother decided having the kids for more than a few days was good enough. We at this time were assured she was clean and had a job). My fiancé thought this would cheer me up since I was severely depressed and anxious about how the children were. He also wanted me to have a "momma" break. After cleaning up about 20 pounds of toys and another 15 pounds of Goldfish crackers, I told him I was going to sit outside and have my "talk time" while he ordered food.
"Talk Time" was my code for going outside and talking to my grandparents (at this point I had lost them all, my grandma being the more recent one 2 years prior). It gave me some time alone and gave me time to do my way of "prayer". I'd sit on the porch and just close my eyes to talk to them quietly. I did this at least 2 or 3 times a month after my grandma passed.
This night I felt pretty down. My 23rd birthday was a few weeks away, I was worried about the kids and their dad, we were always scared due to being in the rougher part of the city, and I felt so down in the dumps. So, I spoke to my grandparents. I chatted up about the kids, what I wanted to do for my birthday (sleep in and have pancakes with the kids for breakfast), how my parents were, and how much I missed them. I spoke to Nana, asking her to give me a sign that my fiancé was 'approved' by her and to let her know I missed her and her warm hugs. After a few minutes I sighed and went inside.
My fiancé was sitting on the recliner and patted his lap to have me sit. I sat down and just sighed. Asking if something was wrong I just shrugged and said that I missed my grandparents and that I really missed Nana a lot that night. My fiancé held me and let me cry into his chest. I rested my head against his right shoulder. I sniffled and smelt something I hadn't smelt in years. Nana's house. Not just the house, but her. I started sniffing at my fiancé like a dog which alarmed him. I told him not to move a muscle as I sniffed around him. It was Nana... But where did it come from? I sniffed the chair, his shirt, his skin thinking he had a new soap. I sniffed the air around him. I couldn't pinpoint it. It was all on his shoulder. He stayed still as I bolted up.
"You smell that?" I asked
"No? What's wrong? What do you smell?"
"Nana...I can smell Nana!"
My fiancé looked a bit worried but let me sniff him like I was looking for a bomb. I was so happy I started crying tears of joy. After a few minutes he got up and handed me his shirt, and moved a few feet into the dining room. I could still smell her. I smelled his shoulder and noticed the scent was there but faint. His shirt was starting to fade in scent. He just looked at me and rubbed my back as her scent faded. Then it was gone.
I quickly ran back to the chair and sniffed around it. It was gone. The strong scent was suddenly gone. I sat down in the chair and stayed there for over an hour waiting to smell her again. But it never came back. My fiancé kept the food away from me in case it disturbed my search of her scent. After an hour and a half, I gave up and sulked to the kitchen to eat my cold food.
My fiancé never could smell what I did but understood when I explained that Nana's house had this warm smell and she wore a perfume I could never find. He understood explaining his great grandma's house had a unique smell that he wishes he could smell again.
That year for my birthday, my fiancé and I hung out with a friend who did tattoos. Offering one for my 23rd year of staying alive, he asked me what I wanted. I thought for a long time about my tattoos, having planned each one. I had one picked for my wrist for years but on the spot changed my mind on what I wanted to put there. I gave him my wrist and told him what I wanted.
I walked out with my 1st tattoo an hour later on my right wrist. "Nana Loves" replaced my original idea of having 2 bows, one for each of my sisters. It is my favorite tattoo on me and the one I adore more than anything. On my worst days I look at it and smile knowing she always meant it.
I recently got a whiff of my Nana again while my fiancé and I were planning our upcoming wedding. So, I guess that empty seat for her won't be so empty.