My Grandma died yesterday. She was 101 years old. What do you say about someone who has been there your whole life? Their absence makes the world lose a piece of its flavor.
It doesn't feel right.
I know you may think that you have the best grandma in the whole world, but I have the best grandma in the universe. At 4'9" or so, she didn't look like a powerhouse, but her quiet, cheerful presence made wherever she was a better place. She was strong and had a will of steel. She passed on a passionate love of tea to a select few of us. You could always count on Grandma for having a pack (or ten) of Doublemint gum, a stash of lemon drops, and a package of mini Twix if you wanted one.
My Grandma was from a big family, and only one of two girls, so she had to put up with a lot of brothers fighting. This caused her to be quite a peacemaker (she HATED fighting and strife). Her sister was about eleven years older than she was, so her sister had to take charge and do many of the jobs around the house, but my Grandma would help her and stick up for her in the face of so many brothers.
My Grandma loved roses. The house that she lived in for fifty years had what she always called "Tropicana" roses. My Grandpa was a meticulous gardener and the heads of the roses were the size of small melons. They would bring in a big blossom (just the head of it) and float it in a round glass bowl so you could see it and smell it.
My Grandma was born when the Model T came out in 1914. She was born in Quebec, Canada, and spoke French as a girl. When she was about ten years old, she emigrated to the United States with her older sister and brothers. Her mom stayed back with the littlest ones and came after. When she came to school in the United States, she was extremely shy. She gained quick fame, however (much to her horror), when she won the spelling bee for the entire school. She won an atlas and then when she progressed on to the next level and won again, she won a dictionary. Our family still has it. When my son had trouble spelling, she would just tell him gently, "It's easy. Just take it slow and sound out every piece."
When she got older, her sister was hanging out with a boy who had a younger brother her age. Would you believe the two sisters married two brothers? They were a close family - no need to fight about when to have family parties to accommodate the schedules of the in-laws!
She went through the Great Depression as a teenager, and this experience caused her to be both frugal and to live simply. She loved sparkly things, but tempered her glamourous side with the backdrop of remembering the Depression, never being wasteful nor splurging on something unnecessary, although I do remember her having a tiara. I was in awe of it. The house she raised her children in was about 850 square feet and had no basement. She made it work.
She loved baseball and hockey, specifially the Detroit Tigers and the Red Wings. Her brother was a baseball player and her father was a hockey player in the league that was around before the NHL started. She had hockey bobbleheads and jerseys and you could call her any day of the week to ask her what time the game was on and which channel it would be shown on. She hated football and boxing, though, because it looked like those guys were fighting (it probably reminded her of her brothers fighting). She loved Michigan State women's basketball and had a signed photo from the coach as well as one from Coach Izzo hanging in her room.
Most of all, she loved her family. Her place was filled with pictures of all of her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. If you sat down with her for a couple minutes, you'd be hearing how smart, funny, quick, talented, and amazing they were. She would laugh when thinking of her second son, who always asked her if she wanted a beer (she hated beer). She would smile wistfully when thinking of her oldest son and say he was the best baby anyone every had, and the easiest kid in the world. She adored her daughter and talked to her everyday. Her grandkids were a source of joy to her - and we all adored her. She made every single one of us feel like we were her absolute favorite (I mean, they felt like it, but I know I was). We would fight over who got to sit next to Grandma and say, "She's MY Grandma." Being a peacemaker, she would want us to share, but I know she enjoyed it a little anyway. She thought her great-grandchildren were so special. She saw the similarities in them and their parents and their grandparents and it reminded her of them when they were little.
My Grandma was great at a lot of things, but I have to tell you, she could tear up crossword puzzles like nobody's beeswax. My brother and I would sit with her (as adults) and go through the newspaper crossword and we'd sit there for like eleventy minutes and come up with nothing, and then when we gave up, she would instantly (but gently) tell us the answer (so we didn't feel like total bozos). How did she DO that? Crossword puzzles are so stinkin' hard. She also could guess Wheel of Fortune really quickly. She crocheted full sized blankets for all of her grandchildren and then made baby blankets for our children because she knew one day her arthritis would get so bad that she would not be able to do it anymore. She taught us all how to crochet, whether you are a boy or a girl, it was a skill to have. My brother made seventy-nine foot chains to use as whips and leashes for his stuffed animals. My cousin Jill and I like it enough to make piles of hats. She made fantastic macaroni and cheese and each of us special birthday cakes.
She always remembered everyone's birthday, even up until the very last few days of her life - she told me to make sure my son got his birthday card. And when your birthday did come, you'd get a phone call from her and as soon as you said hello, you'd hear her singing happy birthday to you.
I will miss her very much. My Wednesdays will not be the same without painting her nails, sitting around chatting about what's new, and having a cup of tea. These last couple months, I would bring her laundry back and hang it up in her closet for her, and she would always say, "Oh, you have to do all this work! What a pain I am!" (For the record - my sister was doing the laundry, I just had to return it and hang it up.) She was never a pain. She was a joy.
Hug your people. Even though they seem like they'll be there forever, even 101 years - it's always too short somehow.
Peace, love, and hugs,