Remembering my Grandma

March 22, 2017
This past summer was one of the lowest points in my life. In a nutshell, I was alone in Shanghai with no friends or family members helping me. (I'm not trying to make it seem like my friends didn't help me--they did so much and more! It's just that we are on a 10 month contract, so they were all going home to see their families.) There was a dangerous wound in my back from my surgery that wouldn't heal. I could barely walk and I was in pain. Then my grandma died. It gutted me that I couldn't make it to her funeral, especially because she was always there for me for every major life event. I know that I was her favorite, and I put off writing this post because of the guilt I feel about not being there for her in the end. I know that there was nothing I could have done differently. I was on orders from my surgeon not to fly. Looking back, there was just no way I could've done it. Still, I really wish things could have been different.

Her presence forever shaped my life. She was a blast! As my mom's cousin wrote, "Gabby was known as the most fun out of the six girls in her family. When she came for my wedding, I have a photo that was given to me of her jumping on the hotel bed. That must have been a fun time. She was so beautiful and lit up any room she entered. She's passed that vivacious spark onto her daughter and granddaughters, too." You couldn't say she wasn't vibrant--she was often the life of the party. She had expensive taste, some fancy outfits, and took good care of herself until Parkinson's took away everything from her. (Sadly, I do not have any digital pre-Parkinson photos of her. She was diagnosed before digital cameras were really a thing, and all of my printed photos of her are back in Ohio.)



Death cannot undo memories, though. And thankfully I have a lot of happy ones with her.

I remember....

* How she would always save me the last bite of her ice cream cone. You know the pointy part filled with chocolate?

* That she took painting classes as a hobby during her retirement. She got pretty good and was naturally artistic. Her artwork was always on display in our house growing up, and she eventually sold some of her work in art shows. She even painted a picture of me before! I remember she gave my sisters and I painting lessons one time in her house.

*Riding in her Cadillac and admiring her fancy jewelry. She always had on several very nice rings and she would always let my sisters and I try them on. She especially liked emeralds.

* She always liked to try her luck with lottery tickets. She loyally bought a lottery ticket every night and would talk about her big plans for what she would do with the cash one day if she ever won. She would give her grandchildren "scratchies" (scratch-off lottery tickets) so that we could try our luck, too. One time I even went to the casino with her!

* My grandma was raised in Massachusetts and often had coffee syrup from MA in her home. I remember she would make us coffee milk and coffee milkshakes practically every time we would visit. My sister told me she remembered that when I was younger my grandma had the flu, and I returned the favor by making her a coffee drink to get better. She really liked that although I'm sure it did nothing for her health.

* We helped her pick out her dog, a Scottish terrier. We even got to help her name it--Shelley.

* She would speak in French to us. She was French and grew up going to an all-French speaking school. It was because of her that I became interested in learning French myself. I even majored in it in college!

* She got a rose tattoo when I was a teenager. When I told my friends that, they thought I had the coolest grandma ever. (Much to my mom's dismay! "Lisa, don't go getting any ideas!")

* When I was a child, she would make up stories about a girl named Julie who was based on me. Julie grew up to be a successful vet (what I wanted to be-ha!). This wasn't just a couple of times. She told me stories about Julie for years.

* It was a tradition for her to make crepes when we would visit her. No crepes have ever tasted as good as her crepes!

* A few summers we stayed with her for a week. She took us horseback riding through Gettysburg and even rode the horse herself!

* I was always in trouble with my parents, but I was never in trouble with her.

* She let my sister Denise and I come grocery shopping with her and let us pick out anything we wanted. Her only rule was, "Just don't waste it!" We bought so many pears because we were trying to be healthy, but we realized after trying them that we didn't like pears. Denise and I didn't want to disappoint her by breaking her only rule, so we took turns sneaking them into the trash can! We didn't confess until years later.

* When I was really young, we would meet her at Friendly's and go there together on a regular basis. I couldn't pass by a Friendly's and not think of her.

* She gave me a topaz jewelry set, including earrings, a necklace, and a ring. They used to belong to her, and I didn't want to take them.  She insisted saying, "That way when I'm gone, you'll have something to remember me by." I so wish I had them with me in Shanghai, but I didn't bring anything valuable here.

* When I was a child, we lived about three and a half hours away, so we would mail each other letters. She always, always wrote me back.

* She would make us snowmen by putting toothpicks into oranges. She put a marshmallow on top for the head and used gumdrops to make the arms.

* We went to Hersey Park with her, and she asked me if the pirate ship was a scary ride. I told her no, so she rode it with us, and screamed bloody murder the whole time. Afterwards, she told me that it was most DEFINITELY scary. Whoops...sorry, Grandma!

* She took us through Lancaster County. We went on a train ride, tried Amish food, and went into souvenir shops. Those lazy summer days were some of my best childhood memories.

* She showed up to both my high school and college graduations. Besides my immediate family, it was only my grandma and grandpa that came. That meant a lot to me!

* We would make each other laugh so hard that one time I actually made her pee her pants.

* She made Denise glamorous by reshaping her eyebrows. Of course, I asked her to help me out, too.

* She always had a collection. At one point she was collecting these troll ceramics. My mom told her they were heinous, and out of loyalty to my grandma, I said that I liked them. I think I even convinced myself that I did. Looking back, my mom was totally right. They were ugly as sin, ha ha.

* When I visited her after being abroad for three and a half years, she told me that she had a shrine to me in her house. She was joking, but there was an element of truth to it! She had this beautiful glass table that opened up, and inside she had placed every postcard I had ever mailed her from Europe and Asia alongside souvenirs I had sent her from my travels.

When I was a child, my grandma was that fun person I always looked forward to seeing. Looking back now as an adult, I can see she really did go out of her way to make me feel loved and taken care of. I better understand and more fully appreciate the lengths she went to for her grandchildren.  She was very special to me and will not be forgotten.


What are some of your best memories with your grandparents?
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