My grandmother would have been 102 years old in June. No, that's not a typo. She was born in 1909. Over a century ago. I remember as a teenager wearing those button up granny style boots. (It was the 80's, people. They were fashionable then.) And grandma telling me how she used to wear the same kind of shoes to school as a child. She was a tough old girl. The matriarch of our clan. Wilma was her name. We lost her last night.
My dad is the youngest of 5 children. There's an 8 year gap between he and his next oldest brother. So he was definitely the baby of the family. And we were the baby's children. We might have been spoiled by our grandma just a little. At least our older cousins think so. :)
This photo was taken at her 100th birthday celebration. My dad, me, my brother and my sister's branch of the family tree.
Our grandparents used to live in a big old Victorian house that had been turned into a funeral home. Kind of gruesome, right? But when you're a kid it was pretty dang cool. They lived on the upper floors. The main floor was the area where the viewings were held. And the basement... well, we didn't go there. That was the creepy place. My grandparents were the caretakers. They worked well into their 80's. I come from good stock.
I have great memories of that place. We were allowed to run around and play on the main floor since there was so much open area. Occasionally, there would be a room set up for a viewing the next day. We were given strict instructions not to go in that room. But, of course, that just intrigued us even more. I can still remember all the "I dare you" and "double dare you" talk amongst the three of us.
A few times I took that dare. Sneaking into the room, tiptoeing up to the casket, and peeking over the edge while the other two cowered in the doorway. Then running with all my might in case the poor dead person reached out and grabbed me or something. Yes.. somewhat twisted but we were little kids at the time. And it was our idea of fun. Don't judge. LOL!
My grandfather had a huge collection of miniature circus collectibles. Really cool stuff. Most of it we weren't allowed to touch. But there were a few things we could play with. That "circus room" was the first room you'd enter after climbing the stairs to their floor. I still remember how exciting climbing those stairs would feel. Cuz grandma and grandpa's house was a happy place for us.
On Christmas day, the whole family was expected to make an appearance at their house. Those days were magical. There were a lot of us in those rooms. Kids running around, lots of talking and laughing, enjoying good food. I remember my grandma would always make buckeyes. I still to this day think of her when I see one. And these little sausage, cheese appetizer things on cocktail bread. We only ever got those on Christmas at Grandma's house. I used to make myself sick eating them.
Finally it would come time to open our presents. Our grandparents always managed to get all of us a little something. And that was no easy feat. Remember, they had 5 kids...who all had kids. And some of those kids had kids. My brother, sister and I overlap with the next generation. So my grandparents had grandkids and great grandkids the same age. We had to open the presents in order of youngest to oldest. Some years the same thing would be the gift for several of us so we'd all open at the same time. Those were fun times. I miss that.
She fell and badly broke her arm right before my wedding day. That arm was all black and blue. But instead of letting it get in her way she just took the matching scarf off her dress and tied it like a sling around that arm. It became a fashion statement. Perseverance and strength. That was my grandma. She was definitely the glue that held this family together. We lost my grandfather in early 2000. He and my grandmother had been together since they were 13 yrs old. I wondered then if she could continue without him.
But she was a fiesty old broad and she kept on trucking. Eventually she got a small apartment. I remember going to visit her. She proudly displayed a photo of me in my police uniform and showed it to anyone who came...the mailman, her neighbors, even the meals on wheels delivery guy said "I've heard a lot about you" when I was there one day during his delivery. It was a little embarrassing but it made my heart happy to know how she bragged.
When she ended up in the nursing home it was the same thing. I went to visit and the staff already knew I was the police officer. It was sweet. But then her memory started to leave her. In the end, she didn't even recognize my dad anymore. That was sad. To see her body so strong and fighting but her mind gone.
I know she's in a better place now. She's finally back with my grandfather. Most of my aunts are there waiting for her too. And even though we really lost her several years ago, it still hurts my heart knowing that she's gone. A selfish part of me kept praying she'd hang on to meet my daughter. I know neither she nor Mia would have comprehended it. But it would have been special for me to have that moment and a photo of them together to hang on to. I have to let that go now. But it still hurts knowing how close we were to getting there....Rest in peace, Grandma. You showed me what a strong woman looked like. Through watching you I learned to be tough. I have nothing but wonderful, happy memories of the woman you were. I will love you and miss you always.