Friday, February 5, 2016

Thank you, Grandma

My grandmother passed away at the age of 99 in her own room on the day after Christmas surrounded by family and so much love. Her passing had been incremental. Over many years we lost little bits of her, aging is a cruel and merciless process. Even so, Grandma always maintained a bit of herself and would shine through for a moment which caused both joy and sorrow as we were all reminded of the formidable woman that she had always been.

Grandma was the matriarch. She had five sons and my mother. Each boy (save for one who is gay) married a woman not unlike my grandmother - strong-willed, intelligent, and powerful. I suspect that we saw less of our aunts because they were all of those things, and that made it difficult when they were with her. We did see our uncles quite a bit, because they adored their mother. She was called Shorty by one (which was fair enough, as she couldn't have been much more than 4 feet tall. We all towered over her, even as children.) Another called every Sunday, which she looked forward to. For so many years she kept a notebook of the weeks events by her chair to share with him. When he came out of the closet - when he was well into his later adulthood my grandmother sat next to him, rubbing his back and simply said, "We knew." It was ok, she was always ok with the people that we were. She kept a gift from my uncles long time partner in her bedroom, right up to her death. When my mother asked if she could get rid of it my grandmother was indignant, "No, Andrew gave me that." Andrew had passed away in 1989.

Grandma saved things. As we began to look through her possessions after her passing we found notes in just about every knick knack. They told of who gave it to her, or how much she paid for, and when it came into her possession. She had items from the early 19th century from family who had first settled in the same town we all lived in. Every piece of glassware and furniture told a story of eight generations of our family. Her home was a place filled with art painted by my great grandmother and my uncle, and furniture designed and built by my great grandfather (a man she always called Daddy). Creativity was valued and encouraged. She taught me to crochet. She and I made my prom dress together. I enjoyed spending time with her, even if we just sat silently together.

When I was a teenager or young adult I asked her if she had any silver to polish. I very much enjoy polishing silver, but I also wanted to spend time with her. Both were a little like unearthing treasure. I recalled this as I helped to clean out a cupboard for my family and held the silver tea set I had polished all those years ago. "She would want you to have that," my mother told me, "she always talked about how you would come over to polish her silver." I am glad I did. I will think of her every time I polish that silver, just as I think of her every time I pick up a crochet hook.

For years at the end of a visit home I would hug her and say, "I will see you later, Grandma." Near the end I would say it thinking that maybe, through some sort of magical thinking it would keep her alive until I could come back again. So on the day after Christmas as the undertaker waited in the other room and we said our final good-byes I leaned down and gave my grandmother one last hug, and said, "I'll tell you what I always tell you, I will see you later, Grandma." And I will, in my own idiosyncrasies born of her, in her hand writing as I follow her patterns, in the paintings and knick knacks I took home from her collection, in the craft books she let me have, and in the memories that sneak up and make me smile, and fill my eyes with tears. I will see her.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had words to describe how much this post means to me.