My grandmother, my hero, passed away. She died three months shy of her 102nd birthday. Before I tell you how amazing she was, let me just tell you that I am sad and heartbroken but I am happy she is finally at peace. She has had a rough past few years. After her 100th birthday things seemed to go downhill quickly. She wasn’t much of herself and I don’t think she really knew what to do with herself. She is finally with my grandpa after 33 years on Earth without him. That puts me at ease.
My mother is the youngest of nine. I am the youngest of 30 grandchildren. My children probably would have been the youngest of the current 51 great grandchildren. Gramma lived in the house that Grandpa build for their family until the time she went into the hospital right before Easter. The day she arrived at the hospital, her 2nd great-great grandchild was born in the same building, a girl to compliment her 1st great-great grandchild, a boy. Ninety-two offspring. How incredible.
I lived right down the hill from her all my life. As with any grandparent I suppose, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve stayed at her house, had a meal she has cooked, sat outside with her under her giant oak tree, and told her I loved her. She was the only grandparent I’ve ever known. She was the most important and amazing woman I’ve ever met. She was always smiling, she could remember EVERYTHING, and her cooking was unlike anyone else’s. She’d make me pumpkin pie for my birthday in April because it was my favorite. How amazing is that? We had so many people at holidays that we ate in shifts. The last few times I was up I watched polka concerts and The Lawrence Welk Show with her after dinner. She always had ginger ale in her fridge. St. Patrick’s Day was a bigger holiday than any other for her personally (the above Irish Blessing was her favorite) and she danced the jig whenever polka music was on. When we were bored growing up, she would tell us to go pickup sticks in her yard. She had a swing that we’d sit on with her and watch the birds in her bird baths. When she was still growing vegetables in her garden, we’d go out and pick peas and beans, shell them, and try not to eat them all before dinner. She made her own noodles with vegetable stew. They were cold and you’d pour the soup over them to make them warm again. They were by far my favorite thing that came from her kitchen. There were also popcorn balls, nut rolls, Paprika Chicken, apple pie, Jell-O, always with fruit and always served with whipped cream, macaroni and tomatoes, mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding, chocolate pie with sticky high meringue, any holiday dinner, apple sauce cake, dinner rolls, pie crust. The most amazing memories came straight from her kitchen. The only food she would eat besides the food that she made was pizza from a local pizzeria. She also always had Archway Raspberry Fruit Filled cookies.
It’s comforting knowing I can recall a lifetime of memories with her. Leaving her after high school was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do. She wrote me this amazing letter that I still have that breaks my heart every time I read it. I haven’t brought myself to take it out yet. She gave me jewelry for my 16th birthday that I sat with for a little while a few hours after I found out. The jewelry box smells like her perfume and I feel incredibly lucky to have that little piece of her.
I’m nervous about what will happen to my extended family now. I supposed those of us who traveled so often to be there with her for holidays and her birthday will still want to get together and make that effort. Those who haven’t won’t. That’s just the way things happen. But I hope and pray that Gramma knew how incredibly special she was to all of us and how I loved her more than anything else in the world.