I was blessed enough not only to have all four of my grandparents until I was 12, I also had to great grandmothers until I was 9. These are my two great grandmothers, both known as Grammy. Grammy G is on the right. In the past I've written about her and her special grammy magic and about her donut making. I have many memories of her. Grammy O is on the left. I have fewer memories of her since she lived much farther away. Also, Grammy O developed Alzheimer's so the last several years of her life she was not herself.
Since Grammy O lived a long way away, visits to her house were always a big deal. Her house was quite different too. Grammy G lived in a little apartment over my grandparents' house. Grammy O still had her own little house. The furniture all seemed fancy and antique. The decorations seemed strange and fragile. I was afraid to sit and I dared not go upstairs. The kitchen was different though. It was an immaculate eat in kitchen which still felt cozy and where I was welcomed with little snacks and drinks. I could sit at the table with Grammy O and feel somewhat close to her. In the living room I felt stiff and she sat across the room from me. She was very hard of hearing so I had to shout to be heard and I felt very rude shouting at an old person. At the kitchen table we sat next to each other and she leaned in. She could hear me much better and I could relax over cookies and normal conversation.
It was at Grammy O's where I first noticed family resemblances. I noticed how much my grandmother looked like her and how my mother looked like her own mother. On one visit all the grownups wound up taking a nap before the long drive back. I tiptoed from room to room peeking at each one of them. In the sleeping faces I saw the strongest resemblance. I also noticed how each one relaxed into the same position and wore the same look. I don't know why that made such a strong impression on me but it did. I do know it was one of the last visits before Grammy O descended into the darkness of dementia. During the visits after that she often failed to recognize my brother or me and she frequently confused my mother and grandmother with each other as she scolded them for some imagined misbehavior.
I have so few memories of her as lucid but I remember finding the above picture and thinking it illustrated perfectly the personalities I recall of each of my grammies. Grammy G didn't concern herself with being fancy. She was more concerned with being warm and welcoming and making sure visitors were well fed. She always had a smile, if not the latest fashion. Grammy O somehow seemed more proper and precisely groomed, attired, and somewhat less approachable, though also inclined to make sure you were fed. I remember mentioning this perception to my grandmother. She found it amusing. Yes, Grammy O was all that but Nana also enjoyed letting me know her mother was well known in their town for "being able to work as hard as any man." I was curious as to what exactly that meant. Nana explained that her parents owned a produce market. Her mother did as much picking and hauling as the men and was often challenged by the field workers to see what kind of weight she could bear. She frequently out-lifted several of the fellows. Then Nana started to laugh and asked me if she had ever told me if I knew who her older brother was named for. I told her I did not. Nana giggled uncontrollably and told me he was named for her mother's boyfriend from before she met her husband. Nana howled as my jaw hit the floor.
The strength of men and a bit of scandal...You just never know what pearls, a lovely hairdo, and a demure dress may hide.