Learning Through Loss: What I Learned From Grandma

9/27/1920-10/1/2012: R.I.P. to the zaniest, craziest, march-to-the-beat-of-her-own-drum Grandma there ever was.

I know everyone loves their grandma, and probably everyone thinks their grandma is the funniest, or the quirkiest, but mine really was.

My grandma was charismatic and had one of the biggest personalities of anyone I’ve ever known. She was an original, and really, ahead of her time in a lot of ways.

I think the one thing that will always stick out for me, how I’ll always remember her, no matter what, is her dancing around with some kind of bow taped or fastened to her. Anytime there was a gift with a bow or a ribbon, grandma would scoop it up and stick it in her hair or put it on her shirt and start dancing around (sometimes she’d sing too).

When I was a teenager I thought she was so weird and it embarrassed me, but looking back I realize how cool it was that my seventy-something grandma could just grab a Christmas bow, rock it as an accessory and dance around. Just thinking about it now makes me laugh.

Finding out who she really was:

When I was growing up, I didn’t take an active interest in who my grandma was. I didn’t learn who she really was until I was a grown up, and by that time it was too late to learn directly from her. Grandma suffered from the hideous and cruel disease known as Alzheimer’s, so in a way, her physical death is more like closure to me. The grandma I know and love hasn’t been around for years.

I spent lots of time with her and my grandpa when I was very young, and I loved being with them at their house. Their backyard seemed like the coolest place on earth, with peach and apple trees to climb, honeysuckle growing along the chain link fence and a swing, just for me.

Likewise, I always had fun inside their house as well. There were books to be read, pages to color, Lincoln Logs to construct and I could always sit in the kitchen with grandma while she cooked or did dishes and talk to her, or listen to her sing along with the radio.

Even though I spent a lot of time with her, I didn’t know how special she was. Growing up all I knew about my grandma was that she was an awesome cook, she grew up during the depression (she reminded me of this all the time), she was an amazing bingo and wheel-of-fortune player and that she could burst out in song and dance on a moment’s notice.

I didn’t learn how strong she was, how determined, how forward thinking, or how charismatic she was until just a few years ago. In fact, about a year ago my dad was talking with grandma, bringing up things from her past, trying to see if anything would spark a memory, or if she’d realize that the man sitting in front of her was her son. Unfortunately for dad, nothing did, and to my knowledge that conversation was their last.

Grandma, the capable:

One of the things my dad brought up during their last conversation was her past work in Sarah Coventry. I remember grandma selling Sarah Coventry when I was very young. Mainly I remember the blue rectangular cases of sparkling jewelry stacked in a corner of my grandparents’ living room. What I found out from dad’s prompting was that at one time my grandma was the top sales representative for Sarah Coventry in the U.S.! What makes this so awesome to me is, she lived in a town of about 7,500 people and she forged a name for herself as a top sales rep. That’s pretty impressive.

After I learned that fact I wanted to know more about my grandma. Dad told me some things about her and my grandpa and their life before and during WWII. As dad began talking, my inner voice told me I should type everything dad was saying so I wouldn’t forget anything. I am so glad I listened.

Here’s just a few awesome facts my dad told me: grandma was extremely capable, she bought her own car at age 18. When my grandpa was away in the war, she worked in a restaurant owned by her older sister. She also bought a big house that had four apartments in it that she rented out so she could make money while my grandpa was fighting in the war.

My grandma, myself:

Since I learned more about grandma I have recognized some of her traits in myself and I couldn’t be more proud. She was truly one of a kind and I am glad that part of her will always live on in me.

4 thoughts on “Learning Through Loss: What I Learned From Grandma

  1. Our lives are measured by our memories. We live in today, look forward to tomorrow but the bulk of our lives are memories that we build on as we move forward. It’s really great to have people in our lives that help us build great memories. Thanks for sharing some great memories.

    1. Thanks, Doug. I have been surprisingly strong so far, I don’t know if it’s because she’s not been the same person for years because of her Alzheimer’s or if it’s because I’m still a little dazed from losing my father only six months ago. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both.

      1. You’ve had a rough patch for sure. I know what you mean about Alzheimer’s, I had an uncle and an aunt who had it. Once the memories are gone it seems they’re gone. When they die months or years later it seems more like a blessing than a tragedy. The tragedy being when the memories were gone. It’s a bad way to go.

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