Before her death, Fran charged my grandmother with the task of giving her granddaughter, Meredith, a Christmas present from Fran. My mom ordered an Amish dollhouse, and we have spent the last month painting it with cathartic intensity, My grandma, mom, and I went down to their house today to give Meredith the house, and the ride was normal, except for being heavy with each of our fears that we would start crying the moment we walked in. We didn't. I spent the afternoon playing with Meredith and chatting with Fran's daughters. We joked, told family stories, and shared Christmas goodies, but everyone skirted the elephant in the room: Meredith's dollhouse was from Fran, Fran who wasn't there, Fran who will never share another Christmas with her only granddaughter. Fran was my surrogate grandmother years ago, 18 years ago, when my grandmother was welcoming me, and Fran was sad that her own children weren't popping out babies yet. Just before we left, Meredith's mom and Fran's daughter, Carrie, said offhand to my grandma that she was now Meredith's surrogate grandmother. Eighteen years apart, I'm trading places with a darling year-old baby who never got to know her own grandmother. Except it wasn't a fair trade; I got an extra, and Meredith gets a replacement (albeit an exceptional one). Granted, Fran and my grandma are kind of the exact same person. They met as librarians, were in the same book club, both gardened intensely, and both love red (my grandma wore a bright red jumper to Fran's funeral and no one so much as gave her a look). I'd honestly become less close with Fran in the last few years, but it was comforting to know she was there, and she was an excellent extra grandma to chat and share accomplishments with. Her husband, Hume, I had never really been close with. I'd see him, we chat politely, but never much more. Hume hugged me as we were leaving today. On the ride home I got to thinking that it isn't fair to say her death was good, but when God closes a door, he always opens a window, right? We have become so much closer to Hume, Carrie, Anne, and Meredith in the last year as Fran got sick and past. Perhaps that's my window.