Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Letter About My Grandma

Someone offered me their ears when Grandma Dorothy died. I wrote to them but am putting it here instead.

Out of all the people who heard about the death (I almost said “passing,” but I think I’m going to just say it like it is - she’s dead) of my grandma (Grandma Dorothy!), you were the only one who offered the service of your ears - both of them. I’m hoping you’ll let me take advantage of that offer but, instead, use your eyes.

Her funeral is today and I won’t be there, so I’m writing this out as a way to remember much of what I can about her. I want to prewarn you that these might not be the typical “fuzzy” memories of an Oma. I’m not going to twist things up to sound poetic. My fondest memories might not be what most would consider worth remembering. But, this is what remains in my mind now that she’s gone. They're memories of flower munching, dead skin, and the sort of things that you do with family.

One vivid memory of her that I have is eating flowers with her in my front yard. The front yard I grew up in had patches of pansy’s underneath a row of itchy juniper bushes. My grandma was the one that taught me that these small, adorably-faced flowers were edible. We sat in the grass together, pulling the pedals off, ruthlessly, one by one and chewing them up. I grew quite fond of that taste.

Here’s a memory that you might be grossed out by. But, I feel like recording it, still, by the means that I am using right now - writing you a letter. I remember, especially as a child, how I used to sit at her feet as she lounged in her goldenrod-crushed-velvet (or something like that) chair. I would peel off her nylon-sock-things and she had lots of dead skin on her legs that I would brush off (yep!) over and over and then I’d put lotion on her legs. I loved, loved doing that.

Her favourite song was Porgy and Bess. That's what she said.

I remember how Grandma loved those crispy-rice filled M&M’s and taught all of us grandchildren that they were cereal and we thought we could have ‘em for breakfast (I never got one). She also loved salt! Oh, she loved it! She would pour a little, little bit into the palm of her hand, lick her finger, and then dip it in the salt and then place it on her tongue. A special treat she made for me frequently was popcorn, yes, popcorn is a family thing, in her old round-bottomed popcorn-popping pan (which I am now in possession of).

She kept chocolate chips stored in a metal box container with a drawer that hinged out. They always tasted a bit different than normal chocolate chips - always better.

I loved her orange shaggy carpet. Admired her disco ball in the front split-level welcome space - whatever it’s called. Goodness, a lot of my memories involve the house she lived in. It was over in Phinney (yes, near where rad folks contra dance). Two stories. Magical back yard! I don’t know how to describe it. There was a character tree, perfect, just perfect for climbing --- climbing onto the roof of the neighbours shed. There was a hidden sort of lower ditch near the fence, perfect for hiding. She had the apple tree that grew different types of apples. Hours of pretend were played in that yard. She kept our artwork on her fridge and our pictures covered the walls of the home.

The basement was a full-on recording studio from a decade or two ago. Turntables were plentiful and there were walls made out of solid records, squashed side-by-side, Grandpa Dave’s collection. Saxophones were were tucked away underneath the grandpiano and there were a series of lightswitches that always confused me. A few of the light switches would control the lights, but if you hit the wrong one a loud “WHURRRNNNN” would fill the room as a projector screen lowered.

One of my last memories of her was going to visit her at the nursing home, just two miles from my community college. We read the Bible together. James was her request. One saying that has always stuck in my mind is the phrase, “Are you forgetting the power of the Lord?” It was in her bathroom, embroidered all beautiful, and also written in capitals in her marked up Bible.

She would introduce me to people as her grandaughter and immediately tell them of my times in Switzerland.

Every July 4th we would set up a ladder and climb up on her roof, giving the perfect view of the fireworks on Lake Union.

And then, one day, I was walking down the street from the library to the Mountain Market when Mom said Grandma was dying. I bought the first ticket I could to see her. She died when I was on the ferry.

She met my Grandpa Dave playing the saxophone in high school. She wore a broach. He asked about it. Bang! They got married. Bang! They had five kids - three boys and then two girls. They went on to have a total of 22 of us grandkids. They were both musicians and, starting with them, a common thread of music wove all of us together covering every instrument - from the tuba to the cello to the harpsichord to the piccolo to the fiddle to the bass to the trombone to the harp to the bagpipes. Music rooms and recording studios in our houses are more common than the exception. Music is a fine foundation for a family, right after love.

She was jovial. She was bright. She was relaxed. She was loving. Oh, how she loved us so much and we adored her right back.

She’s gone now. You got that? Dead.
Grandma Dorothy is dead.
And I can accept that.

But I definitely miss her. I could never wish her to be here in this moment, it was her time to go, but goodness do I love her.

The great thing about writing this letter is I can cry, as I am right now, and no one has to see. I don’t even get why I’m still crying. I think it’s ok.


  1. The B&W photo on the lawn is really nice. Your words are much better than that.

  2. Grandma's are a gift from God. <3 Very moving memories you have with yours.


Your words make me grin.

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