It is about a month shy of two years ago when I wrote Memories of Grandpa in this space. Now it is time to share memories of my maternal grandmother. She passed away on Monday after a series of health complications. I know that she is now healed and happy and much better than she was while she was here, given that her quality of life had significantly diminished. Still, losing a loved one is never easy. I think it is compounded in this case by the fact that she was my last living grandparent–there is just something, for lack of a better word, odd, about knowing that an entire generation of family members who were so involved and influential in your formative years are now gone.
I imagine many people think very highly of their grandmothers. After all, grandmas are special people. My grandma was no different. She was very different from my paternal grandmother in many ways, though in some very important ways they were similar. Both of my grandmothers loved the Lord and were involved in working with children at church through Sunday school and AWANA to teach the Bible to young people, and that is a legacy for which I am grateful.
My maternal grandmother never worked after she married and she never learned to drive a car, either. Before my family moved half way across the country at the beginning of my teenage years we lived about forty-five minutes from my grandparents house and I have many fond memories of holidays at their home, summer outings around the area and summer vacations to West Virginia. We were always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Easter and Christmas. Easter dinner was a site to behold all on its own, with the good dishes and glasses and silverware and a table literally covered with food. It always included ham and potato salad, if I remember correctly. After dinner there was always an Easter egg hunt in the backyard. On Christmas day we would spend the morning at my paternal grandmother’s house before going to my maternal grandparents’ home. The family room downstairs would always have a Christmas tree surrounded by what seemed to a child to be a mountain of presents. Within just a few minutes of my grandparents’ home was an amusement park known originally as Wild World, though it is now a Six Flags. Grandma would purchase season passes to Wild World and we would go often in the summer. Grandma would pack lunches to bring in the cooler and we would spend all day at the park.
From the time I was eight until I was thirteen and we moved my grandparents would take my brother and I on vacation for a week every summer to Holly River State Park in West Virginia where we would stay in a cabin and enjoy the outdoors. There was no television or radio, just fun. My brother and I would play in the creek, we would all go hiking and participate in the activities of the week that the park had to offer… I can still remember watching my grandmother help my brother learn to swim by standing a short distance from the edge and urging him to swim to her fingers as she stood there making the “number one” sign with both hands. They would do this over and over, with Grandma gradually backing further and further away from the wall, my brother thus swimming further and further on his own.
Grandma never liked to read for her own pleasure; I do not recall ever seeing her read a book just for fun (a huge difference from my paternal grandmother). But she did like to read stories to her grandchildren, and she read them with gusto, changing her voice for the various characters and so on. She also loved to play games. Interestingly enough, for someone who did not like to read, she very much enjoyed word games like Boggle, but she would play most anything. I can remember playing Chutes and Ladders with her as a very young child, and remember playing Boggle or Phase Ten even once I was an adult.
Grandma served wonderful meals. It was not uncommon for her to get started preparing the next meal shortly after one ended. The rest of us would be sitting around stuffed and she would say, “Well, I better get started on dinner.” A collective groan would usually be the result, as we could not imagine eating again anytime soon… It was a family joke that Grandma would ask if you wanted some more as she was putting another helping on your plate. And I cannot forget “treat.” I am guessing that name stuck from the time my mother and her sisters were young, but my grandparents would have treat every night, usually long after most people would think of having dessert. It usually consisted of cake or brownies or cookies and ice cream…almost always ice cream. On a typical night this might be served around ten o’clock. After I was working, though, when I would go visit my grandparents on long weekends sometimes I would drive to their place after work on Friday, getting there around midnight. Treat would always be waiting when I arrived, and we would sit around and eat dessert in the wee hours of the morning! Which reminds me, my maternal grandparents were always night owls, too… They never went to bed early that I can remember. In fact, they usually stayed up later than I did!
When I was growing up Grandma would always call on our birthdays and she would sing Happy Birthday through the phone to whomever was celebrating. She had very distinctive handwriting, which I can picture clearly in my mind, and when I was in college and we were exchanging actual snail-mail letters I can remember her writing in considerable detail about whatever topic she happened to be addressing.
It is, from a human standpoint, sad to know that I will never see Grandma again in this world. I am glad that the last time I did see her–Christmas last year–she was still living with my parents, not in a hospital setting, and that she could still have conversations to some extent, even though her mind was, for the most part, gone. I am rejoicing to know that her mind is now sharper than it has ever been, that she is in heaven with the Lord and that her body will never again suffer pain. She is in the presence of God, no doubt visiting with old friends and with Grandpa. And some day, I will see her again.