I feel an emptiness that Grandmother is gone. Not so much for the woman who lost her sight and her hearing and of simple pleasures that brought her joy. She is free of the limitations and frailty of being a centenarian. Rather, I feel the loss of the woman who is at the center of my happiest family memories:
- Sunday dinners often shared when we lived in Hamburg;
- Birthday celebrations and holidays when I was a child. If need be, we would travel to be with Grandmother and Grandfather, or they would travel to visit us.
- Remember the toy drawer in her hallway cupboard? It was closest to the floor so we could reach it easily.
- I can picture her table, her dishware with the red apples, the table laden with side dishes, Granddad serving a pot roast.
The aroma of coffee brewing at dawn while I’m still in bed or of fresh home baked bread transports me back in time to her yellow kitchen on Haskell Road where she worked hard to prepare family meals, where she watched birds through her picture window, where I watched and learned from her how to bake pies.
Until now, there’s never been a time that we’ve not known her among us. She lived a lifetime’s worth of memories before I was even born. My aunt recently showed me photos of her when she was a girl and a young woman. She swam, played basketball, rode horses, dressed in the fabulous fashions of the 20s, had lots of friends, lived on a farm. The photos spoke of the happy memories she carried from a time we never knew.
As a child, I both feared her – she could be stern—and loved her. She always stood waiting for us at the door when we came to visit. She greeted us with an embrace and a big kiss.
She took pleasure in such simple things, cardinals red against the snow at her bird feeder, her Chihuahuas Chap, Cheeta and Teena; books; her work as editor of the church newsletter and church librarian, her family.
She often said that family is the most important thing. I know she wished we all lived closer to each other. She regretted how television changed the dynamics of family conversation and life, though she did love the Lawrence Welk show.
I know she felt the loss of loved ones deeply. It was one of the biggest hurdles she faced—greiving and going on after losing her husband Richard, her brothers Joe and Harrison, her sister Clara, her sisters-in-law Ella Grace and Ruth, and so many others. She faced the challenge of growing older and her losses bravely. She was always a role model and inspiration for me, an independent woman who was involved and active as long as she was able.
She used to travel alone to Washington, DC, for Daughters of the American Revolution conventions well into her 80s. She was proud to attend high school and college graduations of her five grandchildren.
She let me know that she was proud of me, proud that I choose a writing career, and that I was active in my church. She lent me support and encouragement during my divorce. I know that she loved me no matter what I did. I often told her that I got my writing talent from her. She was too humble to believe that.
I have letters and cards from her that I will treasure. Until she was over 100 and writing became too difficult, she corresponded regularly with family and friends.
Now she is gone from us. We were so blessed to have her with us for so long. I’m sure that she is once more surrounded by loved ones and that Heaven is having a big party to welcome her.