It’s been a little over a year now since Grandma died at the much too young age of 100.
During her lifetime, Grandma, who until she was 99, had lived on her own, worked as a comptometer operator, owned and operated a general store, made the best French Toast in the world (her shortbread was really good, too), and did volunteer work.
Many who knew her will remember her for her quilts, afghans, needlepoint, and for the knitted caps she made for infants. When I think of Grandma, these are a few of the things that spring to mind:
Visiting with her and my great aunt in Florida when I was 7.
Flying down to Florida in 1984 to drive her home (she hardly needed my presence, as she visited Kenya that same year).
Taking her to a Star Trek convention in June 1984 (she had a great time).
Going with Grandma to my Great Uncle’s, and taking a “shortcut” that made us over an hour late.
Grandma sliding through the opening under the fence of small cemetery right next door to a subdivision in the late 1980s, in order to explore it (the fence has since been removed; you can now walk right in).
Grandma teaching me how to play (Klondike) Solitaire (or “patience”, to use her terminology; years later, I would teach her other Solitaire variations).
The postcards and “postcard packets” she’d send me when I was a kid, from her trips abroad or to other parts of the country. I still have a “post card packet” (I don’t know what the actual term for it is; it’s a long rectangular strip of images, folded lengthwise, with the end then tucked into flap) that consists of images of Florida fish.
Attending a comics show at the mall with her in 1981 and later finding out she’d bought me the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as a birthday present while we were there.
Standing in the doorway of my bedroom at her cottage and watching Nixon tell the world he’ll resign the next day.
Driving along the bumpy dirt road leading to the lake.
Visiting Corktown in 2000 with Grandma and extended family, to see the house she and her siblings had lived in when they’d first arrived in the U.S.
Interviewing Grandma and her younger sister (who’s still with us at 97) about their experiences in coming to Detroit (I subsequently provided a transcript to the Detroit 300 people).
Going with her to Sanders downtown.
Driving with her to Lima for my cousin Kathleen’s high school graduation party (Years later, for Grandma’s 100th birthday party, Kathleen drove from Rome (no, not the one in Georgia) to be there, despite heavy snow along some portions of the route).
The bedtime song she’d sing to us when we were kids.
And the many hours spent visiting with her.
To name just a few things.
Grandma was indomitable. She broke her pelvis in 2004. Didn’t stop her from making a full physical recovery. Well, she may have moved a bit more slowly after that, but she was still getting about under her own power. Still, we were all glad when she finally agreed to move into an apartment in a Waltonwood community in the summer of 2008, since she would no longer be alone all day; would have access to an elevator; and would have an inside mailbox.
And I think she enjoyed being able to interact with other people, when she’d go downstairs to dinner. Even after she had to move over to the assisted living section during her last five months, she still enjoyed going over to the independent living section to have dinner with the people she’d met there.
If there’s any sort of afterlife, what’s Grandma doing now? Maybe she’s sharing a beer with my Uncle Bruce. Or watching TV (golf or Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy) while knitting. Or playing a hand of Solitaire. Or reading this blog and saying, “Liar. We were only half an hour late that day we went to Uncle Willie’s.”
Or maybe, if they’re being really good, she’s making people some of her excellent French Toast.
Copyright 2010 Patrick Keating