Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy Birthday, Granny!

My maternal grandmother was born on this date in 1914. Wow, it's overwhelming to think of all the things this lady has witnessed. She used to drive “the team” of horses into town as a girl. She worked in a bomber plant during WWII.
Ging was a tremendously determined woman. Divorced twice, she supported herself while raising three children. When she made up her mind to do something, there was no changing it.
Always practical, Ging's love was expressed subtly. You could count on her; she was steady. If you needed something, she was there. She would be there in a crisis; whether or not anything needed to be done. She was there just because she knew you wanted her there. And, if she loved you, she was going to feed you!
My granny was beyond capable. There was no thought of not being able to do something – you just did it, because it needed to be done. She never wasted time questioning whether or not she was able. Someone in the family once expressed uncertainty about her driving a car with a manual transmission and she snorted that she had driven a Model T!
Ging had strong convictions about helping people who needed help. She visited sick people. She helped an elderly couple with their laundry for years before they passed away. She bought whatever was being sold for fundraisers. She helped take care of people who were dying. She gave rides to people without cars. She gave generously to the church. She donated blood faithfully until the Red Cross told her she was too old to give, which she thought was dumb.
Ging and I had regular pursuits when we were together. We played Scrabble. A lot. For 30 years. We went to fish fries on Lenten Fridays for years; I don't know if we liked the fish as much as the ride and checking out all the different churches and Veterans' Posts. We learned that the churches have the best desserts, but the posts have beer. We went to church suppers – fund-raising roast beef dinners, Fat Tuesday pancake dinners, spaghetti dinner benefits, you name it. We bought the raffle tickets – for money, for quilts, it never mattered. It wasn't about the prize, anyway; for Ging, it was about the donation.
Ging was of a generation that ignored a lot of problems; people were comfortable with denial. She was formed by that value but, she didn't always adhere to it. She rarely brought up the tough subjects but, if you did, she spoke openly and comfortably, as if she were discussing the weather.
My sister and I stayed with my grandma often. When we were little and visited her in the evenings, I would pretend to be asleep; when it was time to go, my grandma would tell Mom, “Aww, let them sleep. They can stay here.” I'm sure everyone knew I was faking it, but they all went along. In the morning, she gave us toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and Hi-C. She thought that, “Kids NEED candy!”
In the summer, when school was out, Mom went to work and my sister and I had the days to ourselves. Until Ging got there, that is. She would come over to make sure that the drapes were opened (she had a thing about that) and that we weren't sitting around in our pajamas. It was important to her to be doing something, whether or not it was productive. She didn't want us sitting around watching TV!
Ging was unbelievably healthy and never looked her age. She and I went to Hawaii when I was 19 and she was 69; everyone thought she was my mother. She swung a leg over her riding lawnmower and mowed the grass until her late 80's and never stopped driving her car. At 94, she was light on her feet, and kind of pranced when she walked. Her hair was mostly still brown. Her skin was wrinkled, but not deeply. Her feet looked like those of a 35-year old woman; they were still cute! She had great legs. She was very curious and would tromp through high grass, across snow, or on ice just to see what someone was doing. She did not stop.
Until the diagnosis of lung cancer. Two weeks prior, my husband had died of the same thing, so it really slammed our family. Ging had volunteered with cancer patients for nearly 20 years after her sister died from cancer and had seen some horrible things. She was too old to be considered for any treatment. Within a year, Ging decided to die. Literally. There was no physical reason for her to be laying in a hospital bed in her living room, dying, but there she was. Countless times, I had heard her say, "When I leave this house, it will be feet first!" That is exactly what happened, too. I believe that she simply decided not to tackle lung cancer. I miss her terribly, but that was a really good decision.
A few years before she passed away, I asked Ging what the best time of her life had been. She thought and decided that it was when she retired, when she did whatever she wanted. I thought of her life at that time: how much we were involved in it, her volunteering, her having regular dinner dates with her friends. It does seem like a happy time.
The love of a grandparent is unlike any other. It's as strong as parental love, without the expectations. God, I miss her . . .
This is Ging's wind chime. It came from Maine and sounds like a buoy. It hangs from a tree right outside my bedroom and when it rings, I hope it's her saying, “H'llo!”

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