I’ve been thinking about my grandma a lot lately. Sadly she passed away on January 1st this year. She was good and old I’m happy to say.
For approximately the past decade she’d been in the fantasy land of alzheimer’s. Apparently she didn’t know anyone any more.
She’d sing, sing, sing though. “Two little black birds sitting on the wall, one named Peter, the other named Paul…” “There was a man named Michael Finnigan, he grew whiskers on his chinny chin… along came the wind and blew them in again….” or “ Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear…” Drat now I’ll never know if Fuzzy Wuzzy was fuzzy! I remember my grandma singing all the time. (So kids – when you say some word and I randomly start singing a song with that word in it – this is where I got this gift from.)
My grandma was so special to me. She was such an important part of my life. Grandma for me, was the ‘safe place’. She didn’t judge. Or lecture. Although one time I managed to get her so wound up she called me a brat. I had a hole in the knee of my jeans and she took my back pocket off to patch it. Oh boy was that not cool. I made such a disgusting fuss. For a long time. After she called me a brat, all 11 years of me felt such shame I realized how silly I was being. She also made me eat the crumbs I left in the butter from spreading it on my toast on my peas one time. I was not an easy child to deal with. Grandma was pretty darn patient.
She hated animals but they always went to her. She lived with my aunt Marjorie for a time. And her five cats and two Collies. Lots of fun stories there. One in particular involved the gigantic calico Dimelza. She liked to sit on the top of the fridge. Grandma wasn’t more than a bitty little Irish woman with a lovely head of white curls. (Perhaps you can guess where this is going?) Grandma walked by the fridge, as she was known to do, and Dimelza whacked her in the head so hard she stumbled! This did not endear them to her – but became a favourite pastime of the cat.
Then there was the ‘rat’ one of the cats brought in as a gift – but saved the killing part for Grandma as a treat. Grandma was spry and she could hop on chairs really well. I was given a newspaper clipping from a few years ago showing her smiling away as a visiting dog cuddles up against her. Perhaps one of the positives of alzheimer’s? Or did she finally decide to admit how awesome they are? I wonder.
For a time Grandma lived in our basement apartment when we were growing up in Scarborough. She’d just come from Scotland with two of my aunties – following my mum and uncle. It was so nice having her close by. Grandma worked as a teller at a bank. She was also such a talented knitter and crocheter – she learned when she was three I was told. If she was here she’d tell you that. 5 or 6 times. You know, now I wish I’d recorded all her stories while she was still alive. She loved to tell stories.
I am the oldest of all her grandchildren. She had 5 children, 13 grandkids and 6 great-grandkids. Ironically none of the 13 of us share her birth month of February. My daughter does though at the ‘great’ level. And my Dad was also a February baby. Interesting that the two people I felt calmest with were both February babies. The sheer volume of littles in Grandma’s life is the reason, she will tell you, that she had arthritis really bad in her index finger – that’s where we all held on for a time with our tiny hands.
Grandma always had the best advice too. She told me once to never, EVER, refuse a gift from a child. No matter how disgusting, chewed or inappropriate it was. She said they loved sharing when they were young. If you say no, they hurt. If you graciously accept, the child learns to love, to share, to be appreciated, to influence others in a positive way, to give of themselves. Their hearts expand.
When I was sad as a child, my grandma would make me a cup of tea. Or tell me to have one if I was in Ontario and she was in BC. (My mum does this too and I love it.) When I heard the news from my mum about Grandma leaving, we had cup of tea together on the phone. When I told my kids, they started a steady stream of tea that went all day. I didn’t have the heart to tell them after 7 cups that I would be ok and they could stop bringing them to me. I heard Grandma’s voice in my ear warning me to smile and be grateful that they loved me enough to give them to me.
I want to put together all my Grandma photos and find enough for a memorial video. I’ll admit I’ve been putting it off. It’s hard thinking of all these memories. Now that they are all I have, it’s different than Grandma just being over in BC, (“Heaven on Earth” according to her.) It was easy to think of her just being ‘over there’ but at least on the same planet. Now she is gone for real.
Grandma of the sweater sets, the rose gardens, the Lentil Soup, and the hard earned wisdom.
Grandma my parachute, my hero, my love. Grandma was the best part of my childhood and now she is gone, just like my dad. I hope they are up there somewhere playing cribbage together, having a cup of tea, and smiling knowingly that we’ll all be together again one day. Dad will be like “If only they knew”. Grandma will pat his hand and say “Let’s have a cup of tea.”