On October 21, my grandmother died.
And it is too easy to fall into cliché here. I’ve done it before. I refuse to do it about Joyce.
Instead I will tell you one story only.
When we were younger (read: “When we didn’t have our driver’s license yet…”), Grandma used to come babysit my brother and me. My dad was often away for business, and my stepmother… well, she didn’t like us coming along on their vacations for some reason. (I’ll leave the issues about that for a more vitriolic post at a later date.) Being out in the country, my parents felt more comfortable with us having an adult around that could drive us if the need arose.
So Grandma would drive out from Tillsonburg in her old Chevy Lumina, a bag full of baking supplies in tow, to make sure that her grandsons wouldn’t accidentally set fire to the house by making sawdust fireballs in the basement.
She would make us a full (and I mean full) dinner every single night. Anything less than three kinds of potatoes in one meal was unacceptable to her. Meat factored in heavily, particularly ham or pork since our family has a long tradition of pig rearing, and you could always count on some kind of homemade dessert at the end. Her butter tarts were the greatest things ever made by the hands of man, and she never visited without making us a big batch to tide us over for days after she left.
There are a million other nuances to those visits, to our interactions, to her mannerisms and intonation and colloquialisms, but to try to build them into coherence here would be useless. It would become the kind of garbled mess that you can find on any other crappy blog out there. Better that I define Grandma by the words she shared with us at every dinner together.
“Boys, I don’t ever want to be one of those old people. I’ve seen them. I don’t want to be one of those old people that start to lose their minds and can’t remember things. If you start to see me doing that, you take me out in the woods and shoot me in the back of the head.”
“Grandma, I’m not going to shoot you.”
“You do it! I don’t want to live like that. You just take me out back and shoot me. Now eat some more scalloped potatoes.”
The bitter irony is that Grandma did suffer with some of the effects of Alzheimer’s in the last few years of her life. She had to give up driving, moved into a retirement home, and started to repeat herself more than usual. But she remained stubbourn, loving, and selfless to the end, so I like to think that she kicked that disease’s butt all the way to the grave.
Some other day, when I have had time to process the funeral, the grief, and the pain, I will write more on Grandma. Someday. Today I just feel glad that she never forced a gun into my hands.