There is so much bad in the world. There has always been bad in the world, but now thanks to technology we are privy to all of it. If you are fortunate in your life, you have rays of light that were put in your path. Something or someone who takes you to your happy place. For me, that was my grandmother.
My grandmother died in 2006. She was a force that had always been in my life, and then she was gone. It seems the older I get, the more I miss her. I learned so much from her.
Like myself, she was a stay at home mother of four. Back then, she referred to herself as a housewife, but she was so much more than that. She was a wife, mother, sister, friend, homemaker, christian, and the best rummy player you could ever hope to challenge.
I think about my life today and try to imagine what it was like to do this back in her day. She was a mother with four small children once. She never had a computer or a cell phone or even a car. My grandpa drove the only car to work. They didn’t have much but I never remember her wanting for anything. She had grown up during the Great Depression with 11 brothers and sisters. She knew what hard times were all about.
Even as a child, I remember trying to soak up everything that I could from her. I would cut her patterns while she sat at her sewing machine, making a blouse or dress. If she was in the kitchen, I was there taking cooking lessons Spoiler: The secret ingredient was always bacon grease.
If she was doing laundry, I would learn how to properly sort loads. I learned to iron standing in her bedroom. She taught me how to properly fold a fitted sheet. Or tried to anyway. Her and Martha Stewart are the only ones on the planet who can pull that off.
While Grandpa was at work, it was just us girls. So we would take a break from our chores, and she would make us a nice little lunch for two. We would eat in her kitchen or outside at the picnic table on pretty days. She seemed to never have a care in the world. Of course, that was the recollection of a child. Looking back now, there is no telling what was going on in her mind, while she was sitting there with me, just being Grandma.
The things I learned from her didn’t end with household chores though. I learned so much by watching her. She taught me modesty, humility and what it meant to be compassionate. I never heard my grandma say a cross word about anyone. Through example, she taught me about a moral compass. She didn’t believe in Karma, per se, but she did believe that if you did enough good in the world, the world would return the favor.
She also taught me to love myself. As a child I had horrifically crooked teeth and because of this I would never smile. She told me when I felt like smiling I should let it out because I was doing the world a great injustice not sharing my amazing dimples.
Even after I was grown and lived an hour away, I would visit at least one Saturday a month. She was always thrilled to hear my voice on the line, warning her that I was headed that way, and that I was hungry. She would start rattling off the menu before I could get off the phone.
I was always greeted on the porch with a huge hug from this tiny woman. She would steer me toward the kitchen where she would feed me all of my favorites, until I was stuffed. Then we would sit and talk for hours. She would tell me how proud she was of the woman that I had become. She would always ask me to smile, those once crooked teeth, now straight, always made her smile, because she knew how much that meant to me. I never regretted spending my Saturdays with my grandma.
Then I got married and had my first baby. We would still go see her but of course it was not as often. Family responsibilities, the same ones that she once had, were now taking over my life. She understood.
Then she got sick. Dementia stole her light. I took my baby girl to see her one day, and just like that, she couldn’t remember who I was. She said she knew that she loved me, but couldn’t remember how exactly. It broke my heart, for her and for me. Her life was slowly becoming, not her own. She had nothing else to teach me, or so I thought. She had one more thing to share. It was how to live a sometimes frightening existence, with grace. She was the most graceful woman I had known in life, so of course she would face death with the same elegance. These were the cards she was dealt and she was going to play until the end. She had already outlived my grandpa, caring for him through cancer. That had been her life’s mission, to take care of him until the end. She had spent her whole life taking care of others. Now her journey had brought her here and so she would live it.
I still think of her often. I realize what a gift it was to have her in my life. If you have a kind word to say about me, I probably have her to thank. If you have a light in your life, you know what I am talking about. Learn everything you can from someone who has walked the path before. My grandmother knew that I loved her. In the end she couldn’t remember me, but she could remember the love that we shared.
My kids never got to know her. I tell them all about her and how much she meant to me. I tell them to always cherish the people in their lives who love them. Never take them for granted. Grandma may be gone, but I still have her here, in my heart.
I love you Grandma.