Thursday, September 27, 2007

Memories of My Grandmother

I found out today that my maternal grandmother is suffering from congestive heart failure, and is likely not much longer for this world. I am saddened by this fact, but at the same time she is 98 years old (if only she could hold on until November! She'd be 99!) and has lived a long life. She is very thin and frail and unlikely to linger or suffer too much longer.

I am sad because I love my grandmother very much, and I don't want her to die. I don't talk about this much on this blog, but I'm estranged from my mother, and consequently, her brother and his family. So Grandma is really the last connection I have with the maternal side of my family, and I hate to see it severed. But that is not the point of this blog entry. The point is to honor Grandma, and share with you, my vast blog audience, the love I felt for her.

When I was very young, Grandma and Grandpa lived in California. But after Grandpa died, my mom eventually managed to talk Grandma into moving to Kentucky, just down the next side street from us. It was at this point that I really got to know her and appreciate her.

She moved to Kentucky the summer before I started my sophomore year of high school. We drove out to California and drove her back home with us, while her younger brother Harold drove the moving van. In the car, I got a chance to talk to her a lot about her childhood, and it was interesting to learn about her life, growing up on a farm in Nebraska in the early 1900's. In fact, that year for my birthday, she gave me a book of essays about farm life. This was particularly touching because I think it was the first gift that she'd ever picked out just for me. (When I was younger, she just gave money to my parents to buy something for a gift.)

I really enjoyed talking to her and I always felt that she was under-appreciated and undervalued. My grandfather had always been larger than life and the center of attention. But quite frankly, I think that she was a much more interesting person, and it's too bad that people could never ignore his antics and focus on her instead. She was a very intelligent woman. She was very up-to-date on current events and politics. One of her favorite channels was C-SPAN. If you needed to know about politics, she was the person to talk to. Something fun to do was to get her started on Richard Nixon. My normally calm and collected grandmother would begin to turn red and you could almost see steam coming out of her ears! Her sense of justice and fair play had a big influence on my own political persuasions.

When I was in high school, I would go over to her house or call her on the phone several times a week. We would talk for hours! I have no idea what we talked about. Probably nothing very interesting or worth remembering! But she and I enjoyed each other's company and that was really all that mattered.

We would take her on our family road trips, too. She went camping with us, and on long hikes that we probably shouldn't have taken her on, too. She was always a good sport and easy-going.

I stayed in town for my undergraduate career, so I saw her less frequently, but at least a couple of times a month, and I would still call her sometimes too. She attended all my orchestra concerts, I remember. When my parents spent the year in France, I stayed home, and looked in on Grandma every couple of days. I remember I had her over for a special birthday dinner, too. And I made sure that this veritable oracle of political knowledge made it to the voting booth, helping her to use the voting machine as macular degeneration took more and more of her sight.

I was sad to move away to Illinois for graduate school. But she did come to visit one Thanksgiving, along with my parents, and every time I was back in Kentucky I made an effort to see her. By this point she was living in a retirement home, because the macular degeneration made it hard for her to take care of herself, and no longer possible to drive.

In 2002, my parents got divorced, and my mother moved away, leaving Grandma behind, still in the same city as my dad. Within the next year Grandma had some small strokes, leaving her unaware of the world around her. But she still remembered me, and my violin, whenever we came to visit. Two years ago, I stopped in on my way from Illinois to Tennessee, and played for her for an hour. I think that really pushed my arm problems over the edge, but she was worth it!

Every time I visit my dad I always visit her too. I am really glad that Vinny got a chance to be with her twice. Here is a picture from their last visit together, in June:

I'm really going to miss my grandma. The funeral is going to be very difficult for me. I hope I can be strong for her sake.

5 comments:

Madeleine said...

Rebecca,
I'm so sorry to hear your grandmother is slipping away. Your memories of her are beautiful and you expressed them with so much love.

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I'm so sorry to hear that she's ill. Your post made me think of a traditional Jewish saying about the dead: 'May her memory be a blessing.'

Katie said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your grandma. I remember when mom and I would go down to Kentucky on our way over to Evansville (or just to visit you guys!), we sometimes spent time with your grandma. I remember being fascinated by her, she's certainly a special lady...

Ginger said...

Those are beautiful memories! I am sorry to hear of her worsening condition.

Flicka Mawa said...

This is a touching post. You are lucky indeed to have known someone from two generations older so very well, and the picture of her and Vinny is precious.