Saturday, November 05, 2011

Grandma Violet

I wrote about one grandma yesterday, and then began thinking of the other one. When she passed away in 1998, the pastor giving the funeral sermon obviously had never known or met her. He delivered a some glib lines about grandmas being full of cuddles and home-baked cookies. That hadn’t been my grandmother and I resented his insincerity.

My grandma Violet was a strong, tough woman who I only really began to get to know toward the end of her life. Especially since I grew up in Nepal and saw little of my extended family for 10 years, I never felt like I really knew my grandparents. Sure there were plenty of visits, but little one-on-one, personal conversations.

It was only as I got older and my grandma was close to the end of her life, that I felt I was beginning to see her as a person, a complicated individual with her own history and intricate web of relationships, feelings and beliefs.

As her memory and health failed, I also felt like she let me in a little more too. She was fiercely independent – I certainly come by it honestly – and I could see that her weakness terrified her. People would show up at her house and she would snap at them – why didn’t you tell me you were coming?

‘We did tell you,’ they’d say and fear would dart across her face. Were they lying to her or had she forgotten? She’d defensively bristle and complain, but when they’d left she ask me to write things down for her.

I went to France for a year when my grandma was failing, but when I said good-bye I knew I’d see her again; I just knew I wouldn’t see her standing. I was able to see her again, to bring her fresh raspberries from her garden which she gratefully accepted even though she could only put them in her mouth, then spit them back out. I was able to tell her I loved her and say good-bye. I wished I’d had more time, as a growing woman just beginning to know the woman she was. But I am grateful for what I did have.

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