The ages of (wo)man – a meditation on life, family, and those who have gone before.

Grandmother with one of my cousins.

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.

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