Remembering those who matter most

Every day of my life proves another thing,  person or moment to be thankful for. But, this Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for my family.

On Nov. 9, I lost my grandmother.

Gramma Judy had just turned 69 years old. Her hair was still fire engine red. But she’d been dealing with many health problems for at least as many years and, I guess, her heart couldn’t take anymore.

So it stopped.

I got the phone call at 2:30 a.m. Nov. 10.

Two days later, I sat alone with my thoughts on the three-hour drive back to little ol’ Fairdale, just outside of my hometown of Montrose.

I was scared.

Scared to be in Gram’s house without her. Scared to see Gramps cry. Scared that the new family dynamic would be awkward and depressed.

Instead, I walked into the living room and my daddy and grandfather immediately ganged up on me over my unmatched socks. My fears ebbed away quickly after that, as we continued to pick on each other and eat fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

We laughed through our sadness, happy to be together — my grandpa, my dad and stepmom, my cousin and me.

My family has always been very close. For my 23 years of life, no matter where or with whom I was living, every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter were spent eating at my grandparents’ with anywhere between 12 and 20 relatives.

As the years went on, things changed. My uncle and his now-fiance moved to Kentucky. My cousin TJ joined the Navy and has since settled in Washington state with his wife. His baby sister, Nina, lives in the Jim Thorpe area, about two hours away. I now live here in Williamsport, three hours away.

But the distance only required minor adjustments in the tradition.

I made it a point to set money aside for the gas I would need to make it home every holiday. My uncle made the trip home, too, as did Nina. TJ called from Washington at 1 p.m. on the dot, when everyone was seated and eating, so the phone could be passed from person to person.

For the several years since I’ve been on my own that I’ve worried about being able to have the money and time off to see my family; after not seeing TJ for about five years; after my uncle moved states away; even as my great aunts and uncles were in Florida for the winter or out in Utah, it seemed unlikely we could all come together on such short notice.

But we all dropped everything to make it home. We made it through her services as a family.

We laughed together as we remembered her fiery, “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. We cried together as we said goodbye. And, in true Hibbard-fashion, we ate together as we honored her memory.

I never thought Gram would be the one to break tradition of being with family in some way or another over the holidays, and I don’t know what this year’s gatherings will be like without her.

But I do know that my family will join together and overcome.

Gram would expect nothing less.