Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Honoring our grandmas

My son-in-law's mother passed away yesterday, the day before her husband's birthday. They shared almost sixty years together. The family was called to the hospital to remove her from life support. Her adult granddaughters painted her fingernails bright red, her favorite color. It reminded me of the day my grandma died and what I did for her.

Grandma's Curls (published Flashquake, 2006)

Pappy and I rode the street car every Friday evening during my first three years. My weekend visits perked Grandma up better than her prescribed nerve medication. She filled my belly with food and my heart with love. As I got older, she fed me rutabagas and rye bread, and thick skinned chocolate pudding for dessert. Slabs of toasted coconut bread waited for me after school, a gesture of her love.

She raised her voice and all five feet of herself up when my high school diploma was presented, and wept harder at my wedding than she did when her second husband died. I became her confidante when, in her golden years, she fell in love with an eighty-year-old two-timer.

She lured me with food; we sat at her table, giggled like school girls and nourished each other.

"Have some soup. I think he's seeing a redhead. Do you think I should dye my hair red? He stopped in to see me last night." Her goo-goo eyes made me laugh.

One day she called and asked me to bring my portable typewriter. "I have something very important I want you to type. It's a secret and I want you to write exactly what I say."

I imagined a love letter and formatted it in my mind. She greeted me and touched my new curly permed hair. "I love your new hairdo. Could you curl my hair like that? I think Joe would like it."

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had her in a death grip and I explained that the perm fumes would be harmful.

I opened my typewriter. "How should I begin, My Dearest or My Darling?"

I wrote the greatest love letter of all time that evening, and it was not to her gentleman friend.

"My Daughters and Son," she dictated her last will and testament, bequeathed her meager possessions to her six grown children and professed her love.

"You are the only one I can trust to do this," she said softly. "This is our secret."

The next day she was rushed to the hospital. Her failing health led to a lengthy hospitalization. Each time I visited, she asked, "When can you give me curls?"

"Soon," I'd say, but her illness progressively worsened. The hospital summoned. I was the first family member to arrive, but it was too late.

"Expired," the nurse said as she led me into Grandma's room.

"Dead," I thought, because Gram and I never minced words.

I sat beside her, wept, then wiped my eyes, stood up and walked to her night stand. By the time I was finished telling my grandmother how special she had always made me feel, every strand of her hair was wrapped in pink sponge rollers. "Grandma, there's a halo waiting for these pretty curls." I smiled, turned and walked out of her room.


jabblog said...

Sweet poignant memories.

Kathleen said...

What a lovely relationship you had with your grandma. I loved reading this post.

Also the previous amusing one. I remember Bazooka bubble gum. We used to get it over here too but I'd forgotten all about the cartoon strip. Youy've got a good memory!

Pearl said...

How sweet, Linda.

My grandma and I, we didn't mince words either, and that really rang true for me.


Sioux Roslawski said...

What a touching story, Linda.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

You made me cry. So sweet to have that special relationship.

Pat Wahler said...

Such a sweet story. I'm sure your Grandma was delighted as she watched you give her the curls she wanted.

Critter Alley

Lynn said...

How lovely.

Susan said...

Okay, Linda. Now ya did it. Tears are streaming down my face and I still have several blogs to read.

That was BEAUTIFUL----a sweet, loving, tribute. What a gal that Grandma was. I'm so glad you gave her those curls, at last. Susan

Val said...

That was touching. Good for you, making sure Grandma got her curls.

My grandma died at 92. She spent her last year in a nursing home, but she still had her hair done every week.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Beautiful tribute to your grandmother. How wonderful that you saw to it she got her longed-for curls. She sounds like a wonderful grandmother; and she was blessed with a loving granddaughter.

Joanne Noragon said...

How wonderful. It took several childen, grandchildren and daughters-in-law to send my mother off, complete with the day's crossword completed, the tea cup she always misplaced and a Cleveland Indians pennant. Thank you for the story of your grandma's curls.

Tammy said...

What a writer. You can make me laugh--or cry--uncontrollably. I love this line: "She lured me with food; we sat at her table, giggled like school girls and nourished each other." That was my grandmother, too. All the best to your son-in-law and his family.

Donna Volkenannt said...

What a lovely story and a loving tribute to your grandma. She sounds like she was an amazing woman. I'm so happy she got her curls.

Karen Lange said...

Very touching, Linda. What wonderful memories you have to treasure. It reminds me of my relationship with my maternal grandmother. My condolences to your son-in-law and his family.

Susan Sundwall said...


Chatty Crone said...

You know what - I don't think I've ever asked you - how many children and grandchildren do you have and do they live near you? sandie