My gramma died today. She had just turned 84 on the 7th of June. She was an avid follower of this blog.
My sisters and I called her “Gramps’ Gramma” because we had two grandmas. She was the one that went with Gramps. I mean, she was married to him. But, now I can see that it was more than that. When he died right after Caden was born, a big part of her died with him. Almost all her letters (yes, she was REALLY into snail mail) and emails reeked of her heartbrokenness and loneliness. But, silly her, she stayed up in the cabin at the Russian River because that was where they had built a life together after they retired, even though it was secluded and miles away from family. She climbed the twenty something stairs everyday until it became too hard, and then she rode up in the wooden train my Gramps had built to haul their groceries up the hill in. We actually used to laugh thinking of her sitting on the little train that moved so slowly up that hill! She used to write letters about the birds and the flowers and the deer and her gardens and her dog. She was definitely a storyteller. And she loved it up there.
As a kid, that place felt magical! The smell on the windy road up to the cabin was not just the smell of the forest, but it was the smell of my grandparents. Gramps had made us a HUGE tree swing there on one of the branches of a redwood tree. There was an actual outhouse up another little hill and they had made a wooden street light to let you know if it was available for use or not. I remember the green kiddie table that I used to sit at on the deck with my cousins during family dinners and I remember Gramma walking around with her special necklace that held a carafe of white wine during those dinners! I remember taking baths in the kitchen sink. I remember eating Gramps’ yummy swedish pancakes for breakfast. I remember playing Judy Garland on the rocrd player and dancing around singing songs with Gramma and my sisters at the top of our lungs! I remember Gramps waking up early and talking to my Dad over a cup of coffee, both of them trying to keep their gruff morning voices low while my sisters and I slept on the pull out couches with my mom. I remember walking down the path to the river and stopping to rip off a part of a plant that tasted just like black licorice. I remember setting up camp on the rocky side of the river but begging my dad to swim us over to the sandy side. That place was special. It’s not too surprising that she never wanted to leave.
Gramma and me have something in common. We both have three sons. And you know, she was a nut! And now I know why! I’m only five years into raising my three sons, and half the time I feel like I’m losing my marbles! I can’t imagine what my state of mind is going to be 18 years from now! And I don’t mean she was a nut in a mean way… she was just a little cooky, but she knew it. (And honestly, aren’t we all a little cooky?) Being the mother of three hilariously sarcastic men, she was often the butt of their jokes. But she loved it. She loved her boys. There is something special about being the only female in a house full of men, and I think she liked it.
But then, my sisters and I came along, and she loved that too. She used to call us her “Three Little Ladies.” Actually, she never stopped calling us her “Three Little Ladies.” She always got us the prettiest dolls and the frilliest dresses. She made us our halloween costumes every year for a awhile when we were little. And NOTHING was too hard for her. Bridget wanted to be a rose one year. (Who wants to be a rose for Halloween? Bridget.) And Gramma pulled it off like a champ! It was a pretty amazing costume. But then Bridget pulled a classic move and decided Halloween morning she didn’t want to be a rose anymore. I don’t think my mom forced her to wear the costume to school, but she definitely made her stand on the fireplace and take a picture in her rose costume to send up to Gramma!
My hands-down-absolutely-best-memory with Gramma has to be my tenth birthday. It was a big deal! I was approaching double digits, people! So, my Gramma flew me up to San Francisco (where she lived at the time) to spend the whole weekend with Gramps and her. I remember when I got off the plane she told me that the only rule for the weekend was that she and Gramps could not say no to me! Looking back, I really should’ve milked that, but I was a good kid. We did some amazing stuff though! She took me shopping in the city for clothes (dresses, of course), to a teddy bear factory (before there was build-a-bear), to a police station that had horses to feed and pet, to Chinatown for dinner during a street parade with a beautiful dragon, to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Imaginarium. Before I left I remember sitting in the living room with her and Gramps when they gave me one last present. A music box that looked like a toy box. There was a secret to how you made the music start. You had to pull on the reins of the toy horse in the front of the toy box. It was really cute. I still have it. I used to have it on my desk at work when I was a teacher. That was a great weekend.
So, yeah. Now she’s gone. I’m sad for my dad, because she was his mom. And that, I can’t imagine. I’m sad for uncles for the same reason. But it’s also nice knowing that she is reunited with the other half of her heart, my Gramps.
So, Gramma, I love you. I’ll miss you. Give Gramps a big hug for me! Say hello to Jesus for me! And I’ll see you again one day.