Losing someone you love is always hard. Losing someone you love, who wasn’t always liked by everyone is just a little bit harder.
I’ve had my fair share of grandmothers growing up, five to be exact, and all different. Every single one holds a place in my heart though two have always been just a little more special, my dad’s mom, and my mom’s stepmom, grandma Sue.
Grandma Sue was quite a bit younger than my grandpa, but they were married before I was born, so she was never anything but my grandma. We always spent summers in WY with them, and I remember one summer I called her Sue, I’m not sure what I called her before, as this is a very early memory, but it didn’t feel right. She was my grandma, and I felt better calling her that. She had her flaws, and some were greater than others, but when it came down to it, she was a damn good grandma to my brother and I. Grandma could hold a grudge, and she wasn’t warm and fuzzy or maternal, but I loved her.
She grew up in east TX with two brothers and her dad, her mom had died when she was fairly young. I think she had a soft spot for me because she knew what it was like to lose a parent so young. Losing her mom was hard on her, growing up the only girl in her family was rough. On top of all the other hardships that come with losing a mom when you’re a child, she became an outcast among many of her friends. She told me the story of her best friend abandoning her. When she ran into the girl’s mom in town, she was told that her friend wasn’t allowed to play with a little girl with no mother around. I remember the way she told me, matter of fact like but with pain in her eyes. So no, she wasn’t maternal, or nurturing, but I always feel like I kinda got why, and she took a liking to me.
She was direct, to the point, and unapologetic. She taught me grandma type things, like how to crochet, and that reading could be an enjoyable pastime. She taught me how not to cook, and that if you go against the grain and someone doesn’t like you for it, so be it. She also taught me a lesson one time, that I will never forget.
We were taking the mini home out to the lake. She was driving, and it was just her and I and she had a tape (maybe an 8-track, it was a long time ago) but it was awful. Some kind of bells chiming or something.
Now, I, as a seven year old was not a fan of this, so I told her I was going to the way back to listen to my Walkman. Grandma got very angry and said that was rude. She told me that I need to open up to other people and see what they like. See what makes other people happy and then I can learn more about them because not everyone is alike and I should make an effort to expand my horizons. Who knows, I might even find something I like.
It felt like a gut punch the way she yelled at me, but her message was on point. It’s something we all struggle with, but if you try to understand someone, you’ll get a better understanding of their point of view, and they will respect you for it. I’m very grateful for this lesson as it has served me well.
When I quit working to raise a family, I got out of my routine of weekly phone calls, but I called when I could. I always liked to hear her voice, though the calls had gotten harder lately, as she couldn’t hear me well and dementia was starting to settle in.
I had one last conversation with her after she went into the hospital, she was mad that I woke her up. I’m so glad that I did, because it was a good call, and my last one.
She died on my birthday, I can almost hear her say, “sorry dearie, you’ll have to share the date now”.
When my grandpa died, I think she thought we were going to abandon her, move on and forget her, but she was family. My grandma. And I miss her.