Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Memoriam

My grandmother passed away early last Monday morning.  She was 90 years old.

My grandmother, called Gram, and I were never very close.  Part of this definitely had to do with distance—my family lived in Texas, then Alaska, then Washington.  Meanwhile, Gram lived mostly in Montana, with some lengthy stints abroad; she accompanied my granddad to Yemen where he did some sort of agricultural work.   Later the two of them traveled as missionaries to Europe.   After Grandad’s death, she spent some more time as a missionary in the southern United States.  In my pre-internet, pre-cellphone childhood, letters came infrequently and phone calls were expensive.  There were visits, but they were always short.  Too short.

I do remember her coming to stay with us when my mother had surgery.  It was right after my eighth birthday, and she took me to Fred Meyers to spend the birthday money she had given me—a dollar for each year.  I bought a package of Lip Smackers chap sticks. 

On another visit, she went on a walk with my dad and me.  We passed a section of sidewalk that had a footprint of a dog in the cement, and she made up a story about the people chasing after the naughty puppy that had gotten away.  I still think about that story every time I walk or drive past that spot. 

It isn’t that there weren’t other visits, there were.  She came along on a family vacation to the seashore once, and we visited her a handful of times in Montana.  Eventually, she moved to Utah while I was there attending BYU, and we saw each other more frequently.  It’s just that we didn’t know each other.  We spent the past four years trying to build the relationship that should have already been there.

I often wished she had been a greater presence in my life—that she had been there to applaud at my school plays, to bake cookies, to have sleepovers.  I realize now that the problem with that wish is that I wanted her to be my idea of what a grandma should be, rather than understanding who she actually was.  I didn’t understand the years of hard work, of poverty, of generous service to others.  I didn’t understand the loneliness of her motherless childhood, the loneliness of being widowed, the loneliness of growing old.  I didn’t often think about what I could do for her, but instead about what she hadn’t done for me.

But you know what?  She loved me anyway. 

I think she knew I loved her anyway, too.  

my last visit with Gram, late June of this year