Ninety two years ago today, you were born.
I have known the details of your life, but it’s only as I get older that I really start to understand you. To me, you were always, “Grandma” and you lived with a determination and a work ethic that made me believe you were born with grey hair and that hard work was what you did for fun.
When you were nine you had polio. You were a little girl and you were so sick. You recovered, but it left you with a limp and one foot smaller than the other. You never complained about the ugly, low heeled, lace up shoes you had to wear, but when we buried you, Mom put a pair of high heeled sandals by your feet so you could dance your way into heaven.
When you were sixteen, you met Grandpa. I was almost 16 the first time I saw the two of you kiss. You always slept in separate rooms as long as I knew you. But that one kiss showed me a different side. Then I learned that so many years ago, the two of you were so smitten with each other that you giggled when you were in the same room together.
You were 35 when your mom died. 35. I can’t even imagine not having my mom when I’m a young mother.
You had cancer. You had a mastectomy. Your body was invaded twice by disease, and twice you won.
You fought your body your entire life. You dieted it to a size that made you tolerate it. I doubt you ever loved it.
You decided you wanted to see more of the world than your tiny midwest town – you took tours to Canada, Alaska and Hawaii. I was mad you were in Hawaii on my birthday. I still have the photo of you in a lei with “that naked man.” (ed Hawaiian dude without a shirt qualified as “naked”)
Grandpa got weaker and weaker, and you cared for him. You never let him go into nursing care. You both knew he wouldn’t live without you. Every time he went in the hospital, you stayed with him. Except that last night… but you still were there when he died. Your partner for 60 years, your husband for 55. You stood by his side, and watched him die. When Mom and I walked into the ICU room and met you, you didn’t cry, you looked me in the eye, you patted my face and said, “You were his idol.” Then the three of us, Grandmother, Mother and Daughter, stood by his bed together. And then we took you home.
It was while you cared for him .. while you kept track of his medicine, cooked his food, cleaned his …. everything … that I found the words you’d copied and taped to the back of the cabinet door. Where the glasses were. The door you would open three times a day while you were prepping meals.
“Lord, I know that nothing will happen today, that you and I can’t handle together.”
Grandma, everything I need to know about faith, you taught me with those handwritten words. Every year I understand a little more the effort it must have taken to keep that faith. You didn’t have an easy life. You didn’t have a dignified death. Your body failed, and then your mind.
I remember you this way.
The older I get, the more I see you in my eyes. Thank you for that gift. Thank you for being my Grandma. I miss you always.