While our family was traveling to Acapulco, my grandma died. Her death wasn’t unexpected. In fact, we had anticipated that she would have died several weeks earlier. But she has always been very strong, and she held on.
We debated nearly every day that we were in Acapulco whether we should return home, since the funeral was scheduled for our last day of the trip. Our family at home, as well as our small family and our “DT family” all agreed that Grandma Dot would want us to enjoy our vacation, so we stayed.
We had celebrated her life while she was with us. We had just gathered in September for her 95th birthday. We spent Christmas Day with her when we moved her into the nursing home. And I was able to talk to her on the phone and tell her good-bye while she was still very alert.
I really wish I could have been at her funeral to give me the chance to gather with family and friends to remember her. But I found it helpful to write some thoughts about my grandma while I was in Acapulco. I wanted to share her with you here.
When I think about my grandma, the most vivid memory that comes to mind is playing in the living room of grandma and grandpa’s house so many times when a knock would come at the door.
“Ask them if they want ice cream or a candy bar!” Grandma would yell from the kitchen.
All of the children in the family knew what she meant. We would open the door to reveal a little child standing there, often with one or two others hiding behind the one who had knocked. The child often didn’t say anything, and he or she didn’t need to.
Her house was the place on the block where kids from throughout the neighborhood knew they could knock on the door and be rewarded with a treat from the freezer or the candy drawer.
Getting sweets from Grandma Dot and Grandpa Paul was such a routine part of my life that I never really questioned it as unusual. And it didn’t enter my mind until I was a bit older that some kids didn’t have grandparents like mine.
Of course, Grandma was good at reminding us.
“Who’s glad to be at Grandma’s house?!” she would ask with gusto as we all gathered around the table for our Sunday evening dinner.
Or, “Oh, honey. That’s what love it!” she would say when she did something special.
We didn’t mind to agree with her that we were happy to be at Grandma’s house because we were. Our 4 p.m. Sunday dinners were a special traditional gathering time for our family that brings back so many memories.
The smell of Grandma’s house. Her famous homemade noodles. And her less famous, but just as memorable concoctions like taco chow mein — when she insisted on combining chow mein noodles with meat flavored with taco seasoning. I’ll also never forget her special recipe for iced tea, which involved dumping so much instant tea in the pitcher that the drink was a dark brown. Or her “salad” which was a wonderful mixture of mayonnaise, bacon and a bit of lettuce.
We would listen to her recitations of all the news that had made the Olney Daily Mail over the last week, then move out to the front porch to watch people drive by while we all told more stories.
Sundays at Grandma’s house would always end with grandma or grandpa giving the children instructions to get a paper bag and fill it with candy from the drawer. The drawer always contained an array of Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers and lots of Juicy Fruit or Doublemint gum.
Then she would usually call us over one by one.
“Honey, come here.” She would grab our hand as if to give it a shake. Instead, she would deposit one of her “fire crackers” — fives, tens or twenties rolled tightly to the size of a fire cracker.
I think my grandma was born a few decades before her time. She was an independent woman who wasn’t afraid to travel the world. She loved to talk about the trip she took to Africa, and she and grandpa ventured around the country on a tour bus on many, many trips.
I will never forget when she babysat for us one time in the summer while my parents were away. We sat out in the backyard for hours with a map of the United States. Although it wasn’t a requirement in my classwork at school, she insisted that I learn all of my state capitals. I supposed I should have been begging to go play. But I really loved her drilling me on my geography and felt good for years afterward that I knew them all.
My grandmother was a sharp woman. She worked a crossword puzzle everyday until she lost her vision. She then kept her mind strong by listening to books on tape. She knew the names of nearly everyone who ever lived in Olney and could tell you their family history.
I always was — and still am — amazed at how many people knew my grandma Dot.
Most of all, she loved Jesus. It would have been rare to have been part of a conversation or a phone call with Grandma Dot when she didn’t mention her faith, her belief that God would provide for her needs or an encouragement to give what we had to someone less fortunate.
It’s so difficult for me to believe that my grandma has passed on. She was so strong, so bright and so positive even up until her final days. I am so happy for her now to think of her in heaven with grandpa, her friends and her family, rejoicing in a body that isn’t slowed by old age, blindness or disease.
I will miss her so much. But I know that many, many people’s lives were touched by her time here.