In the past few months 4 friends including myself all lost their grandma’s. When I think about my Grandma I think about the word STRENGTH. Grandma was 94 years old when she passed and thinking about the things she lived through is remarkable. Our Grandmas lived through at least one World War, the Great Depression, and leading lives that we will never know or understand.
For me, that call came in as I was driving back from Florida early on July 4th. Not what I expected to hear at 9:30 in the morning. I felt like my heart was ripped out of my body. For another friend, it came in the form of a phone call across many miles. Another friend had his grandma pass away at home just feet away from his own room. Another friend, was there as her grandma took her last breath surrounded by those who loved her most-her children and grandchildren. But, all of these remarkable women, were loved deeply and are missed in so many ways that it hurts thinking about it.
There were 11 kids in my grandma’;s family and she had no choice but to go to work in the sixth grade. She walked over a mile each way to clean her teacher’s house for $1 a week. She gave her mom 75 cents out of that dollar to help support the family and she was allowed to keep the remaining 25 cents. Today that one dollar can buy very little. A drink at the corner store or perhaps a cheap bite to eat that will later cause indigestion. But, for grandma that dollar represented a week’s worth of hard cleaning and helping to start dinner for her teacher then the mile home. All by herself at age 12. There were no toys or dolls to play with. Everyone was expected to pitch in, work and help support the family of 13. A $5 dress represented 5 months or work. In some cases, they had to share a bed as they slept in shifts. Today, our kids, don’t know the value of a dollar or even what it means to work. Kids get upset if they have to share a room and its unthinkable to share a bed.
My grandma used to tell the story of when she was a young girl and being given up for adoption because there were too many mouths to feed during the Depression. Her mom had a found her a home way out on Long Island with people who were well off and could afford to give her a better life. My great grandma dressed my grandma up in her finest dress and took her to the house and left her there. However, my grandma was miserable and sad. She was old enough to miss her mom and her siblings. In the end, things did not work out and my grandma returned home. I can’t imagine what her life would have been like if she had stayed with the other family. Would she still have met my grandfather and waited through World War 2 for him? Or would she have married someone from high society? Her life would have been so different than the way it turned out. I do know it took a lot of strength to endure things that I will never know or understand.
For three generations, I was the only girl on my Dad’s side of the family-a total anomaly because no one knew how to handle me. I was a tomboy and then some since I had an older brother and mostly boy cousins. My mom told me one day to take a walk so I did….put my tricycle in the bed of my wagon, hopped the fence then took a stroll down the highway until the Highway Patrol brought me home. But, at that young age, I had asked my grandma for one gift. “Grandma when you go to heaven can I have your dishes?” Of course, she said yes and I forgot about this conversation until about ten years ago. On a trip to visit her in New York, she looked at me in the eye, and said “are you going to take the dishes with you?” I was stunned. I didn’t expect to get them until she passed but she wanted me to have them at that moment. Of course, I said yes and spent the next two days wrapping each piece in newspaper and bubble wrap. Then shipped three large boxes to myself in Arizona. As we carefully wrapped each piece, I asked my grandma for the story behind them. They were bought in the 1950’s on “coupons” from the store. Each week a new piece was offered for a certain amount of coupons. Each week she walked to the store to do the grocery store then home. Now, we can order dishes on Amazon, Target or Wal-Mart. Instant gratification. Grandma’s dishes are probably one of the most precious things that I own. I look forward to the day that they come out of storage and grace my table again. Then, I will know grandma is with me.
One of the habits I inherited from my grandma was the love of sending snail mail. My grandma sent us cards for Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter or the first day of school. She never missed a holiday or an important event. She was always fair in sending us each our own cards addressed to “Master Scott” or “Mistress Jennifer”. Always our full names too. Each card normally held a few crisp dollar bills encouraging us to buy an ice cream on her. Now, I send plenty of snail mail of my own to my own grandchildren, addressed to each of them individually, as well as to friends on holidays or just as a thinking of you. Grandma’s spirit lives on although I don’t have a little girl of my own to pass this on to I hope one day it encourages other to send mail and know how much that postcard or letter means to someone. At times, we are going through struggles that we don’t want to share about but with the opening of an envelope can change someone’s day immediately. I always knew that I was loved by my grandma when I got her letters or cards and I hope the friends who receive mail from me know how much they mean to me.
Certain things evoke powerful memories of grandma such as my grandma making “sauce” or asking what you would like to drink immediately after entering her house or the tins of butter cookies that were always present. For my friends, their memories include their grandma’s making the best fried potatoes ever, or a bottle of Clamato juice. In fact, my mouth is watering for some fried potatoes because I had heard this friend describe them in so much detail that I can smell them even though I live in another state and the friend has moved on with his life. For others, it was spending free time sitting next to their grandma in the days, weeks and months leading to their passing. It is something we know is coming but the moment the phone rings,it changes our lives forever.
One thing is for certain these four women who helped shaped our lives had more strength, humor, life than any other person we will ever know.
Tonight I ask you to light a candle, raise a glass of your favorite beverage or close your eyes in a moment of gratitude and prayer for these women who recently passed.
I love you Grandma now and forever and miss you more than you will ever know. Thank you for helping to shape the woman I am today.