First off, thanks for bearing with me last week. My great-grandmother passed away on Sunday November 27th, just under two months shy of her 109th birthday. You might remember her from other mentions on this blog, most notably “A Treasure Trove of a Find,” “Preserving the Treasure Trove,” and “Lessons from a Centenarian.”
Next, after reading the above, you may wonder why I still had a book review posted on the 28th. Here’s why. I had written and scheduled that post before I left to go home for Thanksgiving. Luckily, I did that as to have more time to spend with family and it ended up having the added benefit of not having to miss posting two week in a row. And thank goodness for my fiance who drove us back to the city where we work; had I driven solo, I don’t think I would have had the concentration to drive back just hours after the bad news. It was hard enough to get through the next three days at work, driving back home the following Thursday, and getting through the day of the funeral that Friday.
Nearly two weeks later, it’s still hard to believe she’s gone. To a degree, I think I thought she was invisible, even after the last two years of mental and physical decline (she was still clear as a bell and walking regularly up to that point). My great-grandmother was a constant in my life up until her death. I know she loved me and the rest of the family. I frequently spent time with her. As a younger child, when we lived several hours apart, my parents as I made the drive to visit about every 4-6 weeks. When I was in junior high, she made the choice to move from her beloved hometown to ours as her only son, grandsons, and great-grandchildren all lived in that area.
In those years when she lived several hours south, I remember being excited when it was time to visit. She always kept a bowl of Hershey’s Miniatures, served vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s syrup from a can (never from the bottle!), and let me play around on her piano. When her arthritis was too bad to play, I received that piano and learned to play myself (though I am sorely out of practice as the piano could not follow me to college, grad school, and my current apartment).
As I grew older and after her move to our town, I saw her every few days except when I was away at school or once I took my current job (I don’t have much leave built up and go home around state holidays). Even when living away, I saw he when I was home. I learned to know her as an adult who experienced far more in her life that I ever would: two World Wars, the Great Depression, and vast technological advances. I even remember her telling me how she learned to drive, my great-grandfather using his parents’ Model T to teach her. Or about how she survived a tornado in the 1920s that nearly devastated her hometown.
And my great-grandmother was a woman ahead of her times. She (and my great-grandfather) completed high school during an era in which most would drop out after 8th grade, if not sooner, to work. She also held a job most of her life, not just when she had to (such as during the Depression) but also later because she enjoyed it. In fact, she frequently traveled as a buyer for a department store she worked at, which in turn led to stories about early commercial airline flights and seeing Billy Graham at Madison Square Garden, among others.
Then at her funeral, I also learned for the first time other aspects of her life as younger co-workers and those she taught Sunday School for at her church spoke at her funeral. Now I wish I had asked more questions in the 28 years we had together. I could have learned a great deal more.
With that final thought, I sign off this post with a reminder to learn all you can while you have family with you; someday you won’t have the chance.
Note: I’d use a photo, but I do not think Great-Grandma would have approved.