Angel Hair Pasta: An Ode to my Grandma

Growing up, I was a picky eater. Anything with more than three components (tacos, chili, pizza with non-cheese toppings) was out. It was “no thanks” to most condiments and sauces. For the most part I existed off of sweet, delicious carbs – bread, rice, and most of all, pasta.

A real treat came when our family would visit my grandma and grandpa at their cottage up north, or their snowbird lodging down in Florida. My grandma, too, was a lover of pasta, in particular the angel hair variety. At home we always stuck with normal spaghetti, so this thin, dainty pasta was a delicacy: eaten with just butter and parmesan cheese, of course.

Sharing a meal of angel hair pasta became a tradition for my grandma and I. She would whip it up special, just for her and me to enjoy. Once it was ready, we would sit down at the table together to eat and chat. We would have the rest of the visit to socialize with everyone else; this time was ours.

My grandma was sweet, my grandma was kind. She took care of others before herself. She even made a dirty joke now and again. I saw her and my grandpa a few times a year and it was never enough.

My grandpa passed away a few years ago. He was the jokester, the prankster, the one who let his granddaughters put barrettes and bows in his hair, the one who was always willing to play along with whatever joke we had concocted.

And now my grandma has left too, after years of slowly fading away. With her memory deteriorating year by year, she first began confusing who her family was, and would need reminding. Then she started truly forgetting, and no amount of reminding was helpful. The grandma I knew slipped away, until she was only a reminder of the woman who had sat and ate angel hair pasta with me as a child. For the most part she looked and sounded the same, but there was no recognition when she looked at my face, and her smile didn’t reach her eyes the same way it had.

So I said goodbye, bit by bit. Each time I saw her, which was less and less often as the years went by and her condition deteriorated, I said farewell to another part of my grandma: the part of her that loved to play cards, the part of her that enveloped me in a hug as soon as I saw her, the part of her that knew I was her granddaughter.

And now I’m saying farewell to all of her. She passed away last week, with my parents by her side and my mother holding her hand. A priest came and prayed with her. It was a peaceful passing.

I’m not religious but my grandma was very much. Here’s hoping that she’s the one who’s right, and she’s up in heaven looking down on me, eating some angel hair pasta.