Grandma, I still miss her

I think I posted this tribute once before but can’t find it anywhere… so here it is again. Especially for my brother who is trying to find the blog he keeps hearing about.

I even mentioned he should follow me if he finds this. He claims he gets so many annoying notifications he’s not sure he wants more. I say as his favorite sister I’m entitled to special privileges. He pointed out I’m his only sister. No special privileges.

He loves me. He even called me for my birthday. A sweet guy.

He loves our grandma too. She holds a special place in the hearts of all three of us. I’m blessed with two sweet brothers.

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I Still Miss Her

I think about my grandmother often. She was a major part of turning our broken lives around and we still marvel at how well things turned out for our family after such a horrible beginning.

Grandma was a strong, courageous lady. You couldn’t tell it by looking at her short little self but if you looked closely at the course of her life, you’d notice. She was loving and funny and, in my estimation, she was a saint to accept the three of us the way she did.

As mentioned, the circumstances of our childhood were not great. I don’t want to spoil this day by getting into all of that but referring to it helps to explain the reasoning behind Grandma’s desperate actions.

My mother was about to go to hospital for a second round of cancer treatment.

The first hospital visit had my brothers and I staying home with our dad while Grandma tried helping from a distance. I don’t remember much about it so can’t enlarge on exactly how things went for her but I’m guessing it did not go well. That would be why she declared an ultimatum the second time around.

If mom wanted her to look out for the three of us, we would have to stay with her. Somehow, we are not sure how, she managed to persuade our dad to agree. In later years, Mom told me Grandma’s courage was because she couldn’t bear to go home at night leaving us in the uncertainty of Dad’s care.

In today’s terms – we were removed from an unfit home and placed in foster care with Grandma as the caregiver. A huge undertaking when you think about it. In today’s world, we would have been removed but Grandma probably wouldn’t have been the one to take us. Not with modern day Social Services regulations.

Fifty-five years old with heart related health issues, married to an elderly man, nearly twenty years her senior, with serious heart issues of his own, I suspect she would have been disqualified. And while their house was amazing compared to ours, it was only a small single story with two bedrooms. Grandma was determined to make it work.

Taking in three hurting children ages twelve, ten, and seven, indefinitely, was life changing, on so many levels.

We never did go back. This move was for the long haul and I’m sure Grandma was relieved. Mom joined us after release from the hospital and Dad didn’t complain, not that I ever heard anyway. I’m sure there were many conversations my brothers and I were not privy to, so I guess we wouldn’t know, even if he did object.

The change in our life was like night and day. The most impactful difference for me was peace and stability. The provision most appreciated by my oldest brother was food – there was always plenty in the frig and we were allowed whatever we needed. We had to get used to regular baths, meals, bedtimes, and church attendance. None of us were not complaining about any of it. We loved our new life.

An undertaking like this meant extra work, and the three of us were required to help. I don’t remember feeling like it was a hardship although I’m sure there were times when I was reluctant to do what she asked. Grandma was a patient teacher and having to work with her provided skills that would set me up for life. I learned how to garden, mow lawns, can and freeze, make bread, pick fruit and vegetables. I learned how to wash clothes with a wringer washer, hang them on a clothes line to dry, iron starched white shirts, wash and wax floors, paint cupboards, and much more. In short – I learned how to work and found I liked it. Working with her was a special gift.

Life wasn’t all work and no play. Grandma was fun, deviously so sometimes. Her antics proved it. She was usually the mischief instigator, shooting watermelon seeds, cherry pits, or peas across the table at one of us, starting a war. It’s a good thing the kitchen was set up for easy cleaning.

Then there was one warm summer day with open windows, a perfect time to take a break from watering plants and shoot a little spray at the person doing dishes. Or one day throwing glasses of water through the space at top of the crooked bathroom door just when someone (my lucky mother) was drying off after a shower. Water everywhere was just part of the fun.

There were many more tricks – rubber sealer rings in bologna sandwiches, chocolate covered ants at church socials, disguising herself as a vagrant on Halloween night to fool the kids. That last one backfired when the army fellow next door noticed a shadowy figure and went striding out to challenge the scruffy trespasser. She revealed herself quickly, I think she was worried he would take her down with a tackle. So many good memories.

We always felt safe and loved at Grandma’s house. Her love wasn’t restricted to the three of us either. It extended to all her grandchildren, even her great grandchildren.

When my first child was born, we (baby and me) would pack up for the drive back home to spend time with her. She loved babies and was always thrilled to have us.

There are special moments in the memories of those days. Baby was six months old when we went shopping for a table and chairs for her new apartment. A set I inherited a few years later and eventually passed on to one of my kids. A few months ago, my daughter bought a new table and passed Grandma’s on to one of her friends who appreciates retro. Her memory lives on.

My second child was born three years after the first. By then Grandma was not doing well as her heart was giving out. She was determined. She was going to live long enough to see this new baby. And she did it. We were able to lay him in the bed beside her so she could look her fill. The next day she was gone.

I still miss her. She was mother to me through my teen years. She was grandma to my first born. The picture I have when I miss her most is the way she was on those visits with Gerald, my first boy. When the missing gets to be too much, I remember how weak and frail she was in those last days. I couldn’t wish her back.

She would be 119 years old this year. It tickles me to imagine what she would be like if she were alive and well today. I’m sure she would be serving bologna sandwiches with hidden sealer rings, while shooting us with cherry pits or watermelon seeds, enjoying every minute of it.

And she would have loved every future baby born to call her Great Grandma and beyond.

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