Aside from my parents themselves, my maternal grandmother was probably the most influential adult in my young life. I was an only child, born ten years into my parents marriage, when they were both 35 years old. If I was not with a parent, or a teacher, or the parents of a select handful of friends, I was with my Grandmother and Granddad.
My Grandmother was a lady – the real kind, not the type who waves a hanky and depends on the kindness of strangers. She was a tough broad, but the classiest kind. She always had an embroidered handkerchief, peppermints, and a paperback book in her handbag, because, she cautioned,
You never know when you might have to sit and wait a spell.
She taught me how to make popcorn – the real kind, on the stove top, with oil and salt. She taught me the exquisite pleasure of sitting companionably with a bowl of popcorn and a great book. She let me drink Diet 7Up out of dainty tea cups, and never seemed to worry that I might shatter cup or saucer into a thousand pieces.
When she stopped driving, I did her grocery shopping – making sure to get exactly what was on the list, nothing more, nothing less. (These were the days, in a small town, when someone could hand you a signed check and you could fill in the total at the grocery store.) Occasionally, I would surprise her with a small sno-cone in the summer time, or a candy bar. We would visit in her living room, talking about world news, gossip, good romance novels, and those pesky kids down the street.
She got older. I went away to college, then law school. She had falls, multiple ER visits, and proved her doctors wrong numerous times. Eventually, while I was at school, she couldn’t live alone any longer and moved in with my parents. It was hard, for everyone. I moved to Exile, she got older, and eventually her worst nightmares came true and she had to enter a nursing home – a decision that pained my mother and her siblings as much as it upset my grandmother.
The last time I saw my grandmother was Christmas of 2006, when I took three-month old B to meet his great grandmother. I’m glad we went, and that I have these beautiful photos. She lives on in the stories I tell my son and the anecdotes I share with the wider world.