- Me with Grandma & Grandpa – September 2007
My maternal grandma passed away in May at the age of 89 1/2. She had lived in a nursing home for the past year as a result of Alzheimer’s. My last opportunity to visit her was in November 2010. It was a hard trip — I had to travel alone and spend my first nights away from my girls since they came home from the hospital, and Grandma wasn’t the same as I remembered her from years past — but I’m glad I was able to go.
By the time of my visit, the disease had already taken a significant toll. She was pretty much non-responsive and it was hard to know how much she was aware of what was going on around her. But one afternoon the visiting family got to reminiscing about days long gone and distant family members from generations older than me. It was interesting to listen to the stories from the past. Apparently Grandma must have thought so too because at one point she laughed out loud! Granted, she wasn’t really making a laughing sound, but the body language was all laughter. I’m glad I got to see that fleeting glimpse of amusement. When it was time for the final good-bye, I gave her a hug and told her I loved her. She returned the embrace and we just sat like that for some time — I didn’t want to leave that moment.
Grandma lived in Wichita, Kansas which meant opportunities to visit were somewhat rare. I remember from my childhood that our family vacations usually consisted of road trips to the midwest (Mom’s family was in Wichita, KS; Dad’s was in Carmi, IL). My sister and I would chase lightning bugs around the yard.
Grandma was a great baker and candy maker and there were always lots of special sugary treats — assorted cookies, muddy roads, peppernuts, sugar glazed pecans, fudge — and loaves of homemade bread. She enjoyed crafts too and I remember several sweaters she knitted for me and quilts she made for me. She was also known to crochet, paint landscapes, and other crafts. One of the most important lessons I remember learning from her is that you take a recipe or a pattern and go from it. The recipe/pattern is just a starting point. Use your own ideas and turn it into something special. Of course, I also learned that if you asked Grandma for a recipe you couldn’t just copy down what was in the recipe book. You had to talk to her about it because the written recipe was just the first version and it was usually helpful to know how she was currently making that delightful treat you wanted to imitate. I look forward to sharing my joy of crafts and baking with my girls in the coming years. And I may have to mix up a batch of Muddy Roads in Grandma’s memory.
Goodbye Grandma. I love you.
Me and Grandma - November 2010