This is a bittersweet memorial day for me. My grandmother was shifted to Hospice a week ago. Last night, three hours after I wrote this, we were called in because my grandma wasn’t doing well. She’s still hanging in, but we’re told it will only be a day. I came home to take care of business and family obligations and decided to post this before I rush back. I hope you’ll indulge me while I remember.
My grandma has always been old to me. I can’t help it. A fifty year age difference will do that. Though my whole life she claimed to 101, my grandma, or grammie as I’ve long called her, was fifty when I was born and to a little kid, that’s old. Her birth year of 1919 gave her a different perspective from mine, in 1969, but you might be surprised by her somewhat modern views on things.
Gram taught me not to be a picky eater (both a good and bad thing), and not to waste food, although I think it might have been a little less “clean your plate” than it was “I made this. You will eat it.” She was an excellent cook. But let’s set the record straight—I will never be thankful for liver or braunschweiger. Also for the record, I am eternally grateful she never had me eat one of her favorite things—creamed herring on crackers.
But speaking of food, she taught me heritage is important. Nut rolls, Easter cheese, and kolache. What would my childhood and adulthood have been without them? These food spell Christmas and Easter celebration. Even more, I was lucky enough to spend hours and hours talking to gram about family. I realized how important heritage is and how I should have high expectations of my children—sorry kiddos.
She taught me responsibility, even if it was someone else’s responsibility—Scott Paulin, yes I’m talking about you. My brother, Scott, and I used to do dishes on alternate days. He wasn’t very good at it—on purpose I think. Grandma made me redo his dishes. She taught me chores were important, even if I hated them. She could smell dirt. I’m not kidding. I learned from her that Murphy Wood Soap is one of the best smells in the world.
She taught me to be a straight shooter and speak my mind. Anyone who knows my grandma will tell you, she’s not afraid to tell you how it is, or how it should have been, or what you should be doing that you aren’t—like calling her or going to church or avoiding that pothole up there (that she shouldn’t be able to see because she’s mostly blind). She was pretty vocal about sex, life, religion and how she was pretty sure neither Catholics nor Protestants have the corner on Christianity.
Being old doesn’t mean not having fun any more. Actually, I’m sure she’d say it meant having fun a lot more. She got remarried in her late fifties—go grandma. She liked to go to the casino, even when she was mostly blind. She was a speeder. No really, do you know that? She was a big speeder! I had to follow her from her house to mine one time. Geez, I couldn’t keep up. I think she thought her age dictated the speed limit—she was like seventy-five and drove that fast that day! At the time, the speed limit was fifty-five. She liked to visit with her friends. Maybe since they were her age—old, remember?—she thought she had to rush to get there. And she loved books. My first romance came from my grandma, who told my mom they weren’t as racy as my mom thought. Um-hmm. And even when she couldn’t read anymore because of her eyesight, she listened to her stories on tape. She just loved them.
She believed that dreams are important and she believed in me. My gram always encouraged me. And she showed me not to be afraid of adversity. She lost many people close to her, but she went on. She lost one of the things most of us value most, her eyesight, yet she went on. She went brilliantly on and showed me that a handicap isn’t the end of the world. You just adjust and go on.
And my grandma taught me most of all to love God and that it’s important to pray. She listened to her bible every day. She listened to “church” on TV. And every night she prayed for her family and her friends. She prayed for individuals, and trust me, they were lengthy prayers…yeah we talked about that, too.
My grandma taught me the most important things: pray, love, be straight with people, speak your mind, be strong, have fun, value tradition, appreciate life (and food), be responsible, and never get old. Even when you’re old.