Friday, March 20, 2015
An Ode to My Grandma
Sure, many did not know her, but it was a loss for them that they never had the opportunity to get to know her.
The woman I speak of is my grandma.
She passed away quietly on St. Patrick's Day. Grandma always took such great pride in being Irish and had not drank alcohol due to medication she had to take for many, many years. So, I have to say it gave me a smile in the middle of sadness to think of her drinking merrily on the other side and being reunited with her husband, who she had lost almost 15 years prior and missed terribly every day.
My grandma taught me a lot. Even though I didn't know her in my young life.
My parents, you see, had moved to Maine away from both of their families because that is where my dad could find a good stable job. And there they stayed until my parents divorced. Both of my parents didn't like the other one's family, so I never got to know my extended family much with the exception of my dad's brother who would come to Maine to visit every summer when I was young for about a week. And my mom's father did come to visit briefly when I was a young child as well.
So my grandmother was a complete mystery to me. Until the summer before my parents divorced. My grandmother, her husband Bill (we always called him Uncle Bill and he always was a grandfather to us) and their two best friends Jeanie and Glenn came to visit, which ended up being one of the most fun weeks of my entire life.
My grandmother immediately realized that I was a shy child who really had withdrawn from a lot at that point in time and not only got me to talk while she was there, she also got me to laugh and eat (which was not an easy thing to get me to do back then). My mother and father's marriage was in shambles by this point and my mother wasn't home much and my father was hiding from the world in his bedroom most of the time. So, I just kind of crawled into my own little shell and didn't let things bother me.
Well, the divorce bothered me. So did moving four states away from everything I'd ever known. It bugged me a lot.
But, through it all my grandmother became my anchor. When she realized I was losing weight (which I couldn't afford to lose) because anxiety was making me not able to digest food at all well, she found like four foods that I could eat without problems and would buy them for me CONSTANTLY and make sure my mother always had them at our house for me to eat My mom ended up having to take care of my older sister more because the two of them related to each other better (not to mention she was working full time trying to make it as a single mom with four kids). If grandma hadn't been there...it would have been a lot harder for me.
Grandma lived over the hill from us. I was over at her house a lot. She showed me how canning was REALLY done. Her and her husband had a huge garden every year and she'd make sauerkraut, she'd can quarts and quarts of tomato sauce and whole tomatoes, corn...you name it. They had fruit trees and she'd can quarts of apple sauce. And she showed me how it cut their grocery bill so much during the winter to have those things to live on.
As I cleaned her house she showed me an appreciation of hockey games and we both cheered the Penguins through Stanley Cup wins. She loved everything we grandkids ever gave her, even when we thought she wouldn't. She NEVER forgot a birthday. She was the only one to remember my birthday one year and it meant a lot to me. She always sent my children birthday cards too and I'm thankful that I have those cards saved for my children when they grow up so they'll know they had a great grandma who cared a lot about them.
She was the best cook and baker I ever knew. She could make overcooked steak soft and tender for her husband who had next to no teeth left, but make it flavorful at the same time. She introduced me to cabbage and noodles, stuffed peppers that tasted so good I'd go back for seconds and the best apple pie on the planet. She showed me how to bake with lard, a substance I had never even heard of before. And she introduced me to coffee with half and half and sugar. And she introduced me to butter. The butter was like a gift from God when I tasted it for the first time, I swear.
I owe grandma so much in teaching me a love of cooking and baking, canning and other things. She even gave me her old Corelle dishes after her husband passed away (seen above) when she gave up cooking and other domestic things because she felt like she couldn't do them anymore. I took them out of storage when we moved to our new house and started using them for my family. We still eat off of them all the time.
They will come to mean more to me now, as it is one of the more corporeal ways to remember her by.
I'm very glad I got to know my grandmother and will continue to appreciate everything she taught me. So, in that way, I know she'll live on. And I hope to teach my children the things she taught me so she can live on in a million little ways.