Ever since I wrote the post about my grandmother, I have been planning to write a similar tribute to my “Gramma,” but this one is harder to write.
The post about Grandmother wasn’t planned. It just flowed from my fingertips as I sat down to write a frivolous April Fools post and realized it was Grandmother’s birthday. While both grandmothers are special to me, I have so much more I could say about my Gramma.
Gramma lived in Maine. I lived in Virginia. We visited her home for a week every summer and occasionally for Christmas. For a child, it was a looooong trip. Once I asked Gramma why she moved so far away. She promptly set me straight on the facts. My mother was the one who had done the moving!
Gramma was all of five feet tall, but she didn’t take any “foolishness” from anyone. (“Foolishness” was one of her favorite words.) She only had to whip me into shape once. I was about thirteen, and I was being snotty to my mother. Let’s just say Gramma had a look that meant business. With The Look and a few short words, she could command obedience from the most obstinate child.
But that firm disciplinarian had a heart of gold. She loved children. She raised five of her own, and she had a hand in raising many others, including a couple of her grandchildren.
As kids, we always looked forward to a trip to Gramma and Grampa’s. Their house was always full of love and affection and old-fashioned home cooking. We didn’t have to always be doing something exciting or buying expensive things. It was fun just to be together. We were never bored.
In the evenings, her home filled with aunts and uncle and cousins who came by to visit us while we were in town. It was always loud and boisterous with lots of good-natured ribbing. To this day, I travel back to Maine every summer to see my extended family.
Since we lived so far apart, Gramma wrote me lots of letters. She would also send cards on every holiday with a pack of flat Trident gum slipped inside the envelope. She was a fantastic cook and cake decorator. Once she made me a fancy cake with a clown on top for no particular reason.
At Christmastime, the years that we didn’t take a trip to Gramma’s house, she would send a huge box of presents to our home in Virginia. She made hand-made bows for each one, which she packaged separately so they wouldn’t get smushed. Sometimes she even labeled them so we would know exactly which present to put them on. (See! I come by my OCD honestly!)
When her grandchildren got older, she started following the Red Sox and became an avid fan, with the purpose of having something in common with her grandsons. I always thought that was neat.
When she was in her early 60s, cancer took hold, but she fought it every step of the way. Although she was short on energy and her nerves couldn’t take a lot of noise and confusion, she never complained. After eight years of fighting cancer, just days after her 69th birthday, she went to meet her Lord and Savior.
This is one of the last, in fact it probably is the last picture of me with my grandmother. It was taken my senior year of high school. She passed away two years later. (Yes, she was shoveling snow. In Maine. At 67 years old. With cancer. You could not keep this woman down.)
My Gramma’s legacy lives on. She taught my mom to make the best pies E-V-E-R. And my mom taught me. I hope to teach my daughters some day. She was opinionated and outspoken, and she practiced what she preached. She instilled in her children the values of hard work and commitment to family, and her example inspires me to do the same. I also learned from her to love my children fiercely but not to neglect their discipline. One of my biggest regrets is that she did not live to know my kids. But it wasn’t meant to be.
She is survived by my Grampa, who turned 90 years old last winter. He still lives independently and goes to work every day. There’s another great story there. But that’s a post for another day.