When I was very young, I remember staying many nights at my grandparents' house. At times, I would sleep in bed with my Aunt Chrissy and younger sister. As children do, we always seemed to wake up earlier than the grown-ups, except, it would seem, for Gram. Gram, knowing her daughter and her grandchildren well, would peek her head into the room, and motion for us to follow her downstairs, allowing Aunt Chrissy (who was in her early twenties at the time) a few more hours of precious sleep.
Gram always seemed to know just what people needed.
As her grandchild, Gram made me feel like the center of the universe. When she became ill, and bedridden, I would perform “shows” for her. I would go into the hallway closet, put on a hat, pick up a cane that sat near the doorway, and do my rockette impression. Or Grandpa would put on Bette Midler and I would lip sync to “Ms. Otis Regrets.” Whatever my nerdy mind came up with and performed, Gram held on to every move. In my 30s, when I visited (which I confess was with far less frequency than either of us would like), Gram would ask me to sing a song with my Aunt for her. I embarrassingly (and happily) agreed. She cultivated my creativity and encouraged me to be myself.
My Gram taught me how to cook. I know this was particularly difficult for her at times, because she loved to cook and care for others. Kim and I would wheel her into the kitchen and she would tell us how to cut garlic, cook meat, sautee onions, soak beans and prepare various meals. Because of Gram, I knew how to cook well before many of my friends.
My Gram taught me about compassion and patience. Despite hardships, the loss of a baby, the loss of a son, an illness that made her bedridden--I never once heard Gram feel sorry for herself or ask “Why me?”
My Grandparents were the first to teach me about God and faith. They drove me to catechism every day when I was in 7th grade, stopping along the way to grab a snack before we went. At Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I read bible passages to Gram and she would ask me about what I thought. My Gram was devout and her faith is something I greatly respect and am a bit in awe of.
Gram taught me about make-up application and hair curlers. About exercise and fitness. She encouraged walking and swimming and I remember her swimming laps and riding bikes at Fawn Lake when I was young. She was a professional model. Performed in commercials and led a life which had many interesting stories (which she happily shared).
My Gram often taught me lessons perhaps unknowingly. Her illness taught me a great deal about caring for others. When I spent time with Gram I would wash her hair or massage her legs. I would help apply her make-up or set rollers in her hair. And I loved doing this for her. I don’t think I realized what that must have been like, to reverse the care process, because I know how much she loved caring for me. As a young person, Gram taught me a great deal about how to care for other people, how to be less selfish. Not just in her love and care for me, but in allowing me to care for her too.
I cannot express what my Grandma meant to me, the things she taught me and what it was like to have her as a part of my growing up. It’s difficult to be so far away and miss saying goodbye. However, my Uncle said something to me that made me laugh and gives me comfort. He said to me, “You know no one wanted to meet God more than Grandma.” It’s true. I hope she’s in heaven now, with her siblings and son, looking down and smiling. And more than that, I hope I've made her proud, because much of who I am is due to who she was.