My Gram’s funeral service celebrated her vivacious life of seventy-nine years and her assured welcome into Heaven. I hardly shed a tear as I reflected on my dear Gram who lived her life to the full, infecting others with her enthusiasm and energy. Her children grieved the death of their beloved mother, while we, her many grandchildren, reminisced with delight about our eccentric grandmother.
In the 1960’s, she embodied the prototype of the modern grandmother of the twenty-first century. “Nonsense! Don’t you dare call me Granny or Grandmother. I’ll only answer to Gram!” She rebelled against the traditional stereotype of the graying granny baking cookies. Her sense of adventure lured me on my first “fast” carnival ride, the scrambler, at the tender age of five. I remember feeling terrified, yet exhilarated as we were swept away by the centrifugal force.
That was merely the beginning of our amusement park adventures. We embarked on all the major roller coaster rides at local parks, not daring to openly admit fear in front of our white-haired kingpin. Gram charged out front with her gaggle of grandchildren nipping at her heels.
After being widowed by her alcoholic husband in her early fifties, it was if the lid to the jar was removed and the butterfly could freely flutter. Smart as a whip, she cleverly invested her life insurance in Marriott stock. Like an old-school investor, she showed loyalty to her stock investments by dining and lodging only at Marriott owned properties.
She found time to take each of her grandchildren on individual dates and had the uncanny ability to make us each feel like we were her favorite! She taught me to place my napkin on my lap, to order a Shirley Temple and the importance of always ordering dessert. She mentored us all in playing a myriad of card games, never bending the rules regardless of our age or inexperience.
Truly the matriarch of her five children and sixteen grandchildren, she constantly sought ways to unite the family. We rendezvoused at her lake home where we spent quality time together. She organized picnics and outings to the racetrack. She sported her checkered flag sunglasses, which we all found incredibly hilarious, yet cool at the same time. (Had my own mother tried to wear them, I would have curled up and died!). She invited us over for swims in her pool, performed her famous swan dive and vigilantly critiqued our strokes .
Although pragmatic, there was an air of mystery about her. Her regular visits to the local jail frightened me as a child. I didn’t understand then, that my Gram needed to offer the hope to those alcoholics that she wasn’t able to offer her own husband. She shrugged off her fear, trusted Jesus and loved the unlovable for years. She lived out the motto framed on her nightstand, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life”.
Gram’s compassion and generosity reached to family members, as well as strangers in need. She secretly proffered monetary gifts to relieve stressful situations. Most importantly, she interceded faithfully for her ever-expanding extended family. She died before the proliferation of internet, thus practiced the long lost art of letter writing. I treasure my bundles of “Gram mail” from my many years living abroad.
Misfortune and health issues plagued her throughout the years. She miraculously survived a horrendous high speed crash and a brain aneurism. She rehabilitated in each of her five adult children’s homes. I remember feeling so grateful that we could tend to her broken body and mind.
She finally decided to sell her town home and move into a retirement village. She became their shining light; starring in their TV commercials and starting the bridge club. A lifelong advocate for literacy, she continued to voluntarily tutor children, adults and immigrants up until her last year of life.
Nothing made her prouder than when she became a great grandmother; she jokingly referred to herself as The Great One. The name stuck and she signed all of her letters with her new title.
Diabetes, chronic leukemia and minor health issues finally took their toll. Her kidneys failed and she returned to her Maker almost sixteen years ago. My only regret is that my children never had the opportunity to meet this amazing lady.
Recently, my husband and I discussed what we would like to be called on that precious day when we meet our first grandchild. Without hesitation, I choose “Gram”.
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