Usually, I use my blog spot to talk about my favorite tropes, scenes, and themes in romance. However, this time is going to be different. On Monday, I lost my grandmother. It wasn’t unexpected, but it still hit me hard. Today, I want to share with you what an awesome lady she was and put in my two cents of opinion about keeping close with people you care about.
My grandmother was 93 when she passed. She lived through the Depression, which expressed itself through an impressive talent for making leftovers into brand new dishes. However, there weren’t often leftovers in her house. She married a gentle giant of a man (6’5″) and they had six kids who all had enormous appetites. It was a running joke that you grabbed what you wanted at her table on your first serving or you might not get any of it. It was a further running joke that Grandma would make sure you ate at least two servings or else she would be certain you were sick because you clearly “didn’t have an appetite.” There are two steak houses in Calgary which no longer allow members of my family to do their 96 oz “eat it all and its free” challenge because we’ve done it too many times.
At one of those steak houses, we had a boisterous family gathering (because we don’t know how to have any other kind). My uncles had ordered their usual massive steaks and sides and the waiter came to my Grandma, who was a petite lady. His jaw dropped when she declared that she wasn’t “too hungry” and would only have the 16 oz. Rare. He attempted to talk her out of it and she fixed him with her very best “bless your heart, child” glare and told him that she knew damn well what she wanted and moreover, she would never waste food by ordering more than she wanted to eat. Then she patted him on the arm and said that she was grateful he was checking up on her and she knew he was just doing his job but she’d be fine and he should go about his business. We were all laughing at his flummoxed expression, but he pulled it together and delivered a great steak.
My grandmother was also notorious for making friends wherever she went. She loved people and was fascinated by their stories. When she met someone, she wanted to know all about them and would remember details about trips, jobs, kids, etc., years after the initial meeting. It made her a favorite at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Everyone knew to “ask Fran” since it was way faster than looking anything up, even after they got computers.
I’ve always had trouble with being brave enough to converse with strangers but she gave me the advice that has seen me through many conferences. “People like being noticed. Asking them about themselves lets them feel important and special. Just listen without judging and you’ll learn more than you could have ever imagined.” She was absolutely right.
In recent years, her prodigious memory began to dissolve into the mists of dementia. She couldn’t recognize her children or grandchildren (or great-grandchildren), but she could tell story after story about her childhood. Some of my fondest memories with her were when she would tell me the family stories, like the one where her grandfather rescued people from a hotel fire by scaling the building, or about the arguments about changing the family name when we emigrated to Canada, or how she and her sisters married brothers and raised their kids together as much as possible. I heard stories about how my dad used to get my uncle in trouble (and vice versa), what it was like moving to Germany in the 1960’s, and the challenges of dealing with doctors who thought they knew more about the hospital and its patients than her.
She was a dual income family before that was common. She worked nights while my grandfather worked days. The key to success was napping while the kids were at school. Despite the hectic schedule, all of her kids agree that she always had time for them, no matter how big or small the issue was. Once all of her kids were grown and she and my grandfather had retired, they got an RV and spent several years touring North American, going as the whim directed them (which was usually aimed at seeing her grandchildren).
She always had dogs. She said they kept her young by ensuring she got out for a walk daily. Not to mention that she could meet the most interesting people with a dog at her side. Her last dog passed almost fifteen years ago and she reluctantly decided not to get another since she couldn’t be sure that she would outlive her pet. She always loved her animals and took great pride in their care.
When she moved into a long term care home, a new side of Grandma appeared. Now that she wasn’t responsible for cleaning and cooking for herself, she was more carefree. Her memory had already gone, but that didn’t stop her from introducing herself daily to the staff and asking them about their lives. It also didn’t stop her from wheeling herself down the hallways to raid other residents’ rooms for chocolate and candy. Turns out that Grandma had a sweet tooth and a criminal mind. Who knew?
She was the first person to believe in me as a person and a writer. She always made me feel that I could do anything and while she didn’t read my books (too much sex, in her opinion), she would hand-sell them to anyone she came across.
I’m going to miss her a lot. I’m glad that I made the effort to spend time with her while she was with us. And I know that she’s arrived on the other side with her memory restored and is probably giving the afterlife a once over, just to see what might be needing her help. She’s probably catching up her siblings and my grandfather on what’s happened since they passed over, and then they’ll go grab a perfectly done steak and visit with the locals.
Rest in peace, Grandma. You made this world a little brighter with every day you were here.