She was born on July 1, 1927. She died on August 17, 2013. She was 86 years old. She met her, still living, husband while she was in junior high. They married young. He went to World War II. She stayed home. I don’t know much about her life then. At some point, she gave birth to her first of 6 sons, with 4 girls sprinkled in between.
My first memory is now fuzzy. It’s of her wearing purple, tending to the first cakes of my twin siblings. I must have been about 2 years old. My second memory is of my grandmother helping us move. We had to because my father left us and my mother didn’t have a job. We lived in an upstairs apartment in Iron Mountain, Michigan. I was really mad. I said something about “goodbye”, and she said, “It’s never good-bye. It’s so long.” She was probably only 56 – she was just Grandma to me.
We stayed with them, my grandparents, that summer. When we moved again, it was to a different home, nearing the end of our constant moving. My grandmother’s home – The Farm – was my stability growing up. We always went back there no matter where we lived.
The Farm – the home that my grandmother made – was home to so many. The doors are always open. There was always something yummy to eat, until the last few years, when cooking became more difficult. In fact, the last time I saw my grandmother, I cooked because she couldn’t. She, my vibrant full of life grandmother, spent her last few years in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure (CHF) and related complications – resulting in an oxygen tube most of the time. These last few weeks, she’s been in a nursing home with my grandfather.
I never thought they would end their lives this way. My step-grandparents – it made sense. They were the retirement birds who flew down to Florida and watched as their friends just died off. This logically made sense to me that they would not live much past 80 – and they didn’t. But, my grandparents, living their routines, were somehow immune to the aging process. They kept on kicking. They kept on doing the same things, over and over. Getting up, making the bed, canning, making bread, dinners, breakfasts, lunch, visitors.
Shortly after my wedding – things changed. Grandpa became affected by dementia, and he now suffers from Alzheimer’s. And, then Grandma got CHF. How?! How could my grandmother, my healthy vibrant grandmother be prone to a chronic illness so late in her life? It was then that I began bracing myself for their deaths. I now wonder how much longer my grandfather can really go on. My grandmother was ready to die last year. Regardless, watching the transition from health to illness is sad, and slow. And the question remains: why?
Shortly after my sister passed away – the answer was clear – it doesn’t make sense, it just is. Life just is. We have to live it to the best of our abilities, whilst keeping our sanity, and trying to enjoy the company of others as we go along.
You really never know when that hug will be the last.