Whenever I get a new cell phone, I scroll through the ring tones to find the absolute happiest one, and that’s the one I set for family members. On this latest LG phone, it’s a jaunty piano tune called “I’m Fine”. My phone sang out that cheery melody yesterday morning, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if it were Mom with sad news?” Sure enough, it was her, and she said you had passed away Friday night.
It wasn’t a surprise—a few days ago, the hospice lady said you probably had less than a week—but now I find myself so tremendously sad. I’ve had episodic crying bouts, sudden and forceful, over the last week, strangely not after the strokes or when you were so agitated and tried to pull out the tubes or when they transferred you to hospice care. It was when Mom said that she, Grandpa, Uncle Matt, Cousin Jan, and the minister stood around your hospital bed and sang your favorite hymns. And every time I’ve thought about that moment since. That image just gets me.
I’m going to miss you. You were my grandma. My friends and cousins have always referred to “Grandma (insert name)” and “Grandma (insert other name)”, but I never had to differentiate. Granny Scott died when I was 2. I don’t remember her. You were it. And the truth is we were never terribly close, yet you loved me and I loved you, and who you were in the world, how you occurred to people, was truly lovely.
You were kind and gentle and warm and humble. You were active and thoughtful and social and thrifty.
I remember when recycling became a phenomenon in this country, my first thought was, “Oh, right, what Grandma does.” I thought you had invented it. After all, a Cool Whip container was good for ten years of food storage, and then the kids were allowed to fashion it into a water-balloon launcher; tin foil got rinsed out and reused; you darned socks. I guess a lot of people who lived through the Great Depression were thrifty or careful, but I didn’t know. I just knew you, and you taught me how to reduce, reuse, recycle.
You were surprising too. I was chatting with you one day when I was about to graduate from Carolina. At that point, I had watched you make Grandpa’s bed and serve him supper for my whole two decades, while he did the handy-man stuff. You were the picture of early 20th century gender roles. You knocked me over when you said, “I didn’t want to graduate from college because I didn’t think there was life after basketball.” Turns out you were point guard at Pembroke.
I mean, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. You cross-country skied, you swam in Buzzards Bay every day from June to October, you learned to windsurf when you were 58. But you darned socks!
Grandma, I’ll think of you often. Swimming laps off Churches Beach in your swim cap. Sitting in your special spot at the table on the porch, savoring your blueberry cake while the rest of us would sit, envious, wondering how you could makes yours last that long. Singing, your voice soft and sweet, in the church choir. Sipping your gin & tonic—well, your tonic with a splash of gin—on the deck, and looking out over the harbor. Sailing Tursiops, and when the breeze picked up, your holding onto the tiller and the main sheet and defying your ever-vanilla mouth by saying, “Damn.” Twice!
When Nate heard the news that Great Grandma Flora had died, he said, “I don’t like dat.”
I love you, Grandma,