Two years ago they said she’d have only 6-8 months to live. Lung cancer first, bone cancer later, plus congestive heart failure. She stuck around for Christmas, as I’ve heard the dying can do – she was a planner, an organizer, so why should death be any different? The denouement after Christmas saw her decline rapidly. She made it as easy on us all as she could; only a couple of days in her own bed – no hospitals, no drama, not much more fuss than usual. Maybe subconsciously I knew there was a good reason to delay my departure to New York until the 7th.
She was the grandparent to whom I was always closest. We lived in the same neighborhood, so hers was a constant presence in my life. For most of my life she tended to her disabled husband, who suffered a stroke before I was born, and who left us in the mid-1990’s. She provided me with the creative gene, and her cleverness manifested itself in everything from conventional painting to unconventional dessert items. Her father was a Beaux Arts-trained architect in Des Moines who designed many beautiful buildings, most of which have been demolished now because that’s how America works.
Some of my fondest memories are her eccentric Christmas gifts: Balsa wood gliders, plants, meats and cheeses. I could always get her something cat-related or a book of cryptoquotes; she was always easy to please. She was really everything you could ask for in a grandmother: instructive but not condescending, sweet but not saccharine, out of touch but not shrill, and most importantly she always had candy and snacks somewhere.
It’s a strange feeling not having grandparents anymore.
1.) Which I received annually from age 3 to age 29. We suspect there may be a cache in the house somewhere.
2.) She taught me the Lord’s Prayer before I even knew what the word “trespasses” meant.