I haven’t posted all week because I said goodbye to my grandmother this past weekend. I wanted to write something, but she is all I can think about – so today I remember her.
One of the very last things she said to me before I said goodbye on our last visit was, “Well, you be careful but I’m still going to worry until your back.” She was talking about my overseas trip to Asia. I can see why she might have been worried. Hell, I have a few doubts myself. But my grandmother was born in 1933 – a very different time.
Kathleen Alice was born in March, specifically. A Pisces. In a small railroad town on the coast of Georgian Bay. Her family came from a heavily French background, with more than a little Native American blood in the mix. She was one of the oldest in a family of 14 children, and food was often scarce. To help feed her family, she dropped out of school after the 3rd grade.
While not uncommon, my grandmother’s upbringing made her tough as nails. She had a wicked sense of humour, always ‘called a spade a spade’, and had a raging sweet tooth. She loved us all fiercely, equally, and endlessly.
However, she had little tolerance for crying – funny now, but not always at the time. An upset phone call to grandma about who-knows-what was often met with the response, “Quit you’re bawling and call me when I can understand what you’re saying!” I can hear her raspy voice in my head saying exactly that, right now as I shed tears remembering these things about her.
There is a large hole in my heart from missing that cheeky, smart, practical woman.
On the first day after her passing, all I could think of her was what I remember of being a small child in her first apartment after she became a single woman again. Making homemade French fries, playing Tic-Tac-Toe or just watching cartoons. I learned that you can bake Play Dough in that apartment, and also just how worked up everyone gets when you don’t come straight home after kindergarten.
Since those early days, my grandmother had been living in a new location. It is in that apartment, overlooking the Bay, which I have spent the last three days with my closest family members. Anyone who has lost a close family member can tell you the truth of this, but there is a lot to think about, do and worry about after a loved one has passed. Through it all, I love her more and more each second.
Going through her things is hard. At first I didn’t know what to do. Our half-hearted attempts at sorting her things were pitiful, but trust me – when you’ve just lost someone one of the last things you want to do is give away or throw out their things! Suddenly, every bauble, tin, knick-knack and item had taken on a special meaning for me. And let me tell you… my grandmother had all of those things, in quantity. I think it’s because she grew up in a time and place where resources such as food and money were scarce.
Over the last three days, looking through every nook and cranny of her home, I have been powerfully reminded over and over again of just who my grandmother was. She was a fierce, beautiful and independent woman. She was a role model and a provider. She was incredibly creative, generous and supportive. Organized, and thorough. Funny, smart and sweet. My grandma, my friend and my confidante.
In the days, weeks and years that are to come, I am not worried about forgetting her. I can hear her voice, as clear as a song in my head. Thinking of what she would say to us all now, sorting through her things and missing her, is one of the most comforting thoughts. And although they are small things, I also have some mementos that are distinctly hers. A small tin of marbles, the cards we used to play with when I was a kid, and her charm bracelet are among them. Things to hold close to my heart and tight in my hands when the pain of missing her gets especially strong.
This has happened many times since Saturday. I already miss her so much and she has only been gone six days. It feels like an eternity. I’ve never been particularly religious, but the idea that she will be with me on my trip now makes me smile. At least she won’t have to worry about me while I am traveling, and I won’t have to worry about her worrying about me.
Miss you Gram. Xo.