Tuesday, June 05, 2012

100 Years

My grandmother was born June 6, 1912.  She lived to be 79.  Her last six weeks were in the hospital on a trach tube after heart surgery.  For her last birthday, which was in the hospital I brought Diana to visit her.  Diana was the only great grandchild with whom she was permitted a relationship.  Diana was greatly adored by her.  It was a great distance away from where we lived and I had not gone to visit all week because Diana was a baby and she had a very bad cold I did not want to share with my grandmother.  We brought balloons.  I told my grandmother we'd stay in the area all day bit come and go as she could tolerate.  I told her when she felt tired and needed to rest she was to tell me by waving goodbye and we'd go take a walk and check back in later in the day after she'd had time for a nap.  




 She knew loss and perseverance both.  She was a child of the Depression.  She knew how to stretch a dollar and how saving little by little made a difference.  She did not waste.  She had aspired to be a teacher but the wealthy relative willing to pay for her education said the only provision would be for nursing or secretarial work.  Neither appealed.  She valued education and was proud that I wanted to be a teacher.  She and my grandfather lived and raised their two boys in a house that by today's standards would be considered uncomfortably tiny by many or fashionably "green" by some.  She could not bear talk of WW2 since my grandfather had enlisted in the Navy, leaving her and their young boys at home alone.  My grandfather supported the family driving an oil truck.  She sent their sons to the University of Chicago by working in a women's clothing store.  When my father (who as a rule does NOT reconsider his opinion once it is formed) said he had nothing to contribute toward my own college education she was livid and informed me she'd be having a word with him since she'd worked all those years standing on her feet so he could flunk out by sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Two weeks later he told me he had...reconsidered...and discovered some small way to help with my expenses.    I was in awe of my grandmother's power over my father.  I wished I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.  


As a child, my grandmother had rheumatic fever, which damaged her physical heart, but it did not diminish her spiritual heart.  She defied the doctors by living as long as she did and by refusing to give up ice cream.  She was also the one who reassured me as a child and teen that my father did in fact love me saying,  "Sweetie, he loves you. He just doesn't know how to show it."  She showed me it is possible to survive and hold her head high in spite of the loss of people through estrangement, people she saw week in and week out and yet who refused to be reconciled.  She showed it is possible to remain in an intimate friendship when others think it's impossible (she and my mother were dear friends for all of the the nearly two decades after my parents' divorce). She taught me that it is important to respect your elders.  To this day, I cannot address people of a certain age by their first name unless they insist I do so. She showed me that faith without works is dead and gave hands and feet to her own brand of belief.  When I announced my engagement she and my grandfather sat me down to have a serious talk with me.  They loved Mr. Lime but were concerned I was too young.  They wanted to make sure I was taking marriage seriously since I had not had a great example from my parents.  They shared about their own failings because they wanted me to succeed.

So many times over the years I have wished my grandmother could see my family; see how Diana has grown, meet Calypso and Isaac, give me advice on how to endure some of the trials life has sent my way. So may times I have wished I could sit at her kitchen table in the tiny kitchen and share lunch together, see her smile across the table, help her wash up the dishes afterward and then be folded into a hug and kissed while she strokes my hair (she always said it was a treat for her to brush my hair since she only had sons).  I'm so grateful I had her as long as I did, since no one expected her to have a full life expectancy, and I am proud to be her granddaughter.  Happy 100th birthday, Mom-mom.  I love you.

14 comments:

Hilary said...

What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It sounds like she was your soft place to fall and a wonderful example for you when you needed it the most.

You resemble her.. you share her smiling eyes. Thanks for sharing her with us.

Happy 100th Birthday to this lovely lady.

silly rabbit said...

Your grandmother sounds very special indeed. You do look like her... that mischief in your eyes when you smile.
I can see by what you have written that she is cherished. I can't think of a nicer way to be remembered.

coopernicus said...

Wonderfully remembered...and not without shades of physical resemblance...

Dave said...

A beautiful remembrance story Michelle. I understand how you feel about your respect for those older than yourself. They deserve it. When my Dad died, though we never had an emotional relationship, I really missed him, which surprised me. I understand how you feel about your grandmother - Dave

haphazardlife said...

What a beautiful post. Lovely tribute to her. She'd be proud of you and your brood.

Daryl Edelstein said...

a truly beautiful post .. a tribute to a grand dame .. you were very lucky to have such a wonderful positive presence in your life

Suldog said...

Lovely and loving tribute, Lime. It makes me wish I could have met the lady. You were blessed to have her!

Craig said...

Thank you, Lime. What a fitting tribute for your Mom-mom's 100th.

A very solid, very wise woman, your grandmother was. And I am grateful on your behalf that you had her long enough to have picked up a lot of that solidity and wisdom from her. What a blessing for your life!

1F got to meet one of her great-grandmothers, and 2F was a year old when she died, but has no memories of her. One of my regrets is that I found my birth-parents too late to meet three of my four grandparents, and the one whom I did meet, died only a few weeks later. If I'd been only a few years sooner, I'd have met two others, and my kids would've met three more great-grandparents.

But we do have a delightful 4-generation photo of Jen, her mom, 1F and her daughter. . .

Logophile said...

Isn't is awesome how you ended up in the family you were meant to be in even though it's not the one you were born to?
Looking at that photo of her as a young lady... there are resemblances, and when you describe her, even more so.

So glad you had her and thanks for sharing your remembrances of her toay.

Rob said...

Your grandmother sounds like a mix of my grandmother and my mom -- both strong, intelligent, practical women who greatly influenced me and my siblings. So glad you had this wonderful woman in your life, Michelle. Than you for sharing her with us on this centennial celebration of her birth!

Beach Bum said...

A loving tribute.

She was a child of the Depression. She knew how to stretch a dollar and how saving little by little made a difference. She did not waste.

My grandparents were both children of the Depression themselves and were exactly the same way about money, saving everything, and not wasting.

The one time I remember them buying anything on credit was a water heater when their old went went belly up. Even then it was paid off as quickly as possible.

Bijoux said...

Very cool to me that you remembered she would be 100. My grandparents have all been gone so long, I have missed those landmark dates long ago. I'm sure your Mom-Mom would enjoy your blog!

~Tim said...

How lucky you are to have had her in your life. Thanks for sharing.

Barbara Shallue said...

This is such a beautiful tribute. I was lucky enough to have had a special relationship with my grandmother, too. I have a feeling yours manages to still keep an eye on you and swells with pride and relief.