My grandma passed away on Friday morning. Writing about my grandfathers here seemed to help me process their deaths, so let's go ahead and do that again.
Grandma Lorayne (she went by her middle name; her first was Georgia) was my mother's mother. She was born in Oklahoma in 1922, and, like most Oklahomans of that time, grew up dirt poor but proud. It was probably her (and her husband, Grandpa Emil's) experiences that led me to my interest in John Steinbeck. Unlike the Joads, Grandma's family stuck it out through the Depression and the Dust Bowl. Long after more recent memories had faded, Grandma could still tell stories about the great black clouds of dust descending on a town, blotting out the sun and filling every imaginable space with grit.
Grit, of course, also means endurance, orneriness, and Grandma had that in spades. She endured the '30s, then endured the war of the early '40s, waiting for Grandpa to return home from Europe. She endured two difficult pregnancies in the ten years afterwards. She endured the tumult of the sixties, and raising a teenaged daughter in that time. She endured breast cancer, early retirement, and the coming of old age. She endured caring for her older sister, my mom's favorite aunt, when Fern's condition became too frail for her to manage herself (Fern was a fighter, too; she made it to the ripe old age of 100 in 1998). She endured having my brother and I as grandsons (just kidding, Matt. Mostly.). She even endured a great big balloon shaped like Mario slowly falling on her. Indeed, she was able to endure everything life threw at her, until the loss of Grandpa. That one, I think, was too much for even her. She was less vibrant, less engaged. Life had lost its attraction. These last few months, I think, she was looking forward to being with him again. And now, she is. It's small comfort for those of us left behind, but comfort nonetheless.
The things I'll remember about Grandma: Her smile and laughter. The smell of her French toast cooking. How I could brighten her day, just by being there really, but also by presenting her with some silly knick-knack shaped like a cat. Her running commentary during my favorite TV shows (or "programs", as she called them). The time she spent an entire episode of Walker: Texas Ranger counting how many people he beat up. What her face must have looked like when Mom and Dad took her to see The Forty Year-Old Virgin. Her hugs. Her kisses. How much she enjoyed being a grandma. How much I enjoyed having her as mine.
I'm gonna miss you, Grandma.