Well, NaBloPoMo didn't work out for me this year (at least not completely). I was back in my hometown all last week, and the Internet connection at my parents' house isn't the greatest. I didn't even take my laptop -- not that I would have had much time to post, anyway.
My grandmother passed away Monday morning. We knew it was coming, but the death of a loved one is not something for which you can ever fully prepare. It had only been a year or so since Granny's health had deteriorated enough to necessitate a move into the assisted living facility. Before that, she was so independent and healthy -- and stubborn -- that I think we just presumed she'd be around forever.
Because she always had been around forever.
Until she began having small strokes, Granny never experienced any life-threatening illnesses, even though she smoked for years -- a habit she kicked a few years ago after having her hip replaced. The rehabilitation facility didn't allow smoking, so she quit and didn't pick it back up. That in itself is a testament to Granny's attitude -- whatever she decided to do, she did. My cousin Jay, in his beautiful eulogy, said one of the things he appreciated most about our grandmother was that her yes was YES, and her no was NO. There were no grey areas with Granny.
There was "no time for foolishness," as she would often say. She was the middle daughter of a man with a long last name (Feasenmeier, we think -- there are debates over how it's actually spelled) who moved to rural West Virginia from the Cincinnati area to work on the railroad. Gertrude Louise was nine years old when her mother died, and at that young age she stepped into a caretaker role and was also expected to lend a hand on the family's farm. Hard work was her way of life.
At 14 she ran away with a handsome young man to the next county over, where the officiant was either blind or accepting of bribes. Granny's new husband was 24; the marriage certificate claims she was 21.
Two years later she gave birth to a daughter, the same day Poppaw got his Army orders for World War II. Four years later, a son. Then another daughter, and another son. Granny was a caretaker. My father and aunts tell stories of the folks she took into their home, and she took care of her baby sister, Anna Mae, who suffered through an awful ordeal with cancer that took her life more than 30 years ago. She nursed her two oldest children through polio and helped raise God knows how many nieces, nephews and neighborhood children.
But her joy was her family, and she took care of all of us so fiercely that at times it was almost overbearing. Sometimes she said too much, or took over, or did without asking. But there was not a single need that any of us had that she didn't meet if it was within her power. Her determination, strength, and capacity to love are the legacy she leaves us.
I remember her standing in the garden early in the late summer mornings, at the start of the school year. She'd be out there checking on the vegetables, and I'd stick my hand out the bus window and wave as we rambled by her house on that narrow back road. I buckled her handmade teddy bears into the backseat of her station wagon on the Saturday mornings she got me up early to help her at craft shows. One Black Friday, she got me up at 4 a.m. to go with her to buy deeply discounted Scotch tape at our Big Lots store. She sometimes let me wrap her Christmas presents, and usually waited for my cousin Susan and me to choose a weekend to put up her holiday decorations.
Granny loved having fun. She sang silly songs and danced, and reveled in telling stories about her younger years. Her doors were always open, and her table was the gathering place for family, friends and neighbors. She was a lady who danced in the streets and liked a sip of whiskey every now and then. Her favorite game was Chinese checkers, and it didn't matter how much she loved you -- she never let you win.
She HATED politics. Democrat, Republican, didn't matter. They were all horses' asses to Granny.
One of her last requests was that the family have a party in her honor when she passed, and we did, for at least three days. You wouldn't believe the amount of food that appeared -- there was so much that we ended up donating a lot of it to the nursing facility that took such good care of Granny in her last year. And so many people attended her visitation service. She would have loved seeing so many friends and neighbors.
I am so proud to have been born into her family. I'll miss her so much.