Sunday, November 28, 2010


How do you sum up a person's life?

My grandmother died Saturday night - peacefully, in her sleep, surrounded by family - after a couple of years of major health problems and some months of off-and-on dementia.

I am fairly certain she would not want me to sit around the house and mope, but I'm at the point where I'm just unsure of what to do with myself. So I've been sitting and thinking.

You know the expression that it's all in the details? It's the details about Grammy that run through my mind.

The fact that 20+ years after I bought her a teddy bear - you remember the Care Bears Grams bear? - it was still on her dresser.

The weird and wacky gifts that she found in the Avon holiday catalog and mercifully stopped sending a few years ago. I remember a hat with attached earmuffs and a wrap-around-your-face-scarf which made for some fun Christmas pictures.

Her key lime pie, which was just a dream to look at and eat. I could have eaten that every day and not gotten sick of it.

Her determination to be out in her garden, despite her arthritis and partial blindness. "I go out every day," she told me, "even if it hurts."

Her conspiratorial tone when she told me to go spend a Nordstrom gift card that she had gotten for my dad's ex-wife before they had separated.

"Now you don't need to worry about fibbing - just go to Nordstrom and tell them you're S-!"

Her lifelong depression, which most people (myself included) just took as needless worrying, until we knew better. Hers was a generation that still largely suffers mental illness in silence.

Her beautifully painted ceramic dolls and figurines, which she could have sold for top dollar had she cared to do so.

Her surviving breast cancer without one complaint.

Her secret smoking in the bathroom for 40 years! Which, by the way, she denied all along.

Her ability to be strong and go on with life after her son, my uncle Bill, died of a rare kind of cancer in his 30s.

Her anger when the far-right tried to determine who was "Christian" and who was not.
She was a pastor's wife, after all.

She underlined the words in some of the religious cards she sent, which we all thought was kind of odd.

She sent me $75 for my 30th birthday - I was unemployed and I felt terrible about cashing it, but my dad said they would be insulted if I didn't.

"I know what it's like to be poor," she told me.
I tried to explain that we weren't poor but she insisted that I spend the money.
"You go out and do something nice."

I feel bad that she would not let me visit over the past few years, postponing it until "I feel better." Pride runs in the family. How much better did she think it was going to get?

It is hard for me to understand the communication style - or lack of it - in her generation. My immediate family is always telling each other we love each other, we don't hide things and for better or worse, we always know where we stand. If a spaceship hit me tomorrow, everyone in my circle of family and friends would know I care about them.

Grammy could only really tell me how much she appreciated my dad; she told him she appreciated me.

Growing up in the dustbowl in the depression, being married to a WWII veteran who suffered PTSD before it was a diagnosis, I know she did the best she could in what was surely at times a difficult existence.

How to close? I admire her strength. I didn't realize until today that I got mine from her.


Darth Weasel said...

I think you said it best in your first and last lines.

"How do you sum up a person's life?"

" How to close? I admire her strength. I didn't realize until today that I got mine from her. "

It is not possible to sum up what a loved one means in words.

I read a story once in which the people were so advanced they communicated not in words but in colors and pictures.

I think if you were to sum up what your grandmother meant to you, the pictures would be beautiful and the colors vivid, bright, and lasting.

There are really no words to properly convey the compassion I feel for your grief. I hope you find peace.

And while Mr. RK is there first, you know my ear is always available if you just want to talk about her, too.

And I am happy to care for your beloved cats when you go on up for the remembrance.

Riot Kitty said...

Darth: You are so kind, as always. I feel blessed to have you as a friend.

That said...I cannot help but laugh that my word verification is "Zoinc!"

G said...

A beautiful tribute post to someone who must've been the apple of your eye, and to her you were the apple as well.

Again, my heartfelt and sincere condolences to both you and the Mister.


G(eorgie B) Miller

Lulú said...

My make up is running, Chica! :( You've expressed yourself beautifully, and my heart and condolences go out to you all.

What a tribute and what a lady! I want to be like her someday and there's no doubt where you got your strength from, my friend.

Hugs, Ily

PS - Pride runs in my family, too. Sometimes it can be a shame.

Holland said...

My condolences for you and yours. The way you describe your grammy shows that greatness can be found in little things and that - at the same time - fond memories are created.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I am so very sorry for yout loss, my dear....Your tribute to yout Grandma is truly beautiful. You write about her with so much love and understanding--I feel like I got to know in this cating post...May she Res In Peace.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

That last should read, I hot to know her in this "caring" post..May She Rest In Peace....
(My one finger typing and my eyesight leave a lot to be desired, I'm afraid....Sorry..)

Lynn said...

That is so true about you - your family and friends do know how you feel about them.

What a lovely tribute to your Grammy.

Riot Kitty said...

Thanks everyone :)

Logical Libby said...

Sounds like a great lady. I'm glad you'll always remember her.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm so so sorry for your loss. You described her beautifully. She sounded like a wonderful lady.

Hugs to you. xx

Riot Kitty said...

Thanks Libby and Joey!

Shionge said...

My deepest condolence RK and yes, words cannot express how one feels but rest assured that she is 'never gone', she is right in your heart always.

Take care dear friend {{HUGS}}

Granny Annie said...

I believe your Grammy would have loved this post. What a loving tribute. I am so completely sorry for your loss.

Aliceson said...

What a month. First my Grandfather, now grandmother? Hopefully the New Year will bring good health and less bad news to share on our blogs.

You're right though, it's the little things you remember that stick out the most. A smell, a favorite pie, a feisty response out of nowhere. I'm sure you will miss her but it sounds like you have a lot of good memories of her. So sorry for your loss, RK.

Hugs to you.

Mike_D said...

Well put.

John McElveen said...

5 hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes! (From Rent of Course)..



Riot Kitty said...

Thanks to everyone who has posted since I thanked everyone else ;)

JLee said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grammy. They were indeed a different generation and I can relate to a lot of the stuff you said with my grandma (rest her soul)Sorry for your loss...

Boonie S said...

I think that you’ve paid a great and lovely tribute to her here. You should feel very proud. She would be.

Best wishes from Boonie

Mama Zen said...

I am so sorry. It is the details about a person that stay with you. This is really lovely.

Senorita said...

This is such a beautiful post ! She was a wonderful woman, and she sounds a little like my grandma.