In a few weeks we will be traveling from Virginia to Oregon to see my grandmother. It will be the first opportunity most of my children will have to meet her. As I get us all prepared for the trip, I remember…
When Grandma Carol lived in NYC and we lived in New Jersey. It wasn’t such an expedition to see her then. I remember the apartment she shared with her mother, Grandma Annie. I remember the beautiful Oriental decorations, and being very certain that I must not be too rowdy. I also remember the pictures that wheelchair bound great -grandma Annie painted, holding a paintbrush in her mouth.
I remember another trip, to a different apartment. Great- Grandma Annie had passed, and Grandma Carol was thinking of retiring to Arizona. This apartment wasn’t as beautiful as the first, but, as always, I was left with the impression that my grandmother was very stylish.
I was 8 or 9 when Grandma Carol moved to Arizona. I know, because I went with her that summer. The first night we slept on an air mattress on the floor of her new mobile home, as Grandma Carol waited for her furniture to arrive. Every evening we went to the pool. Grandma Carol seemed like she knew everyone, but looking back, as an adult, I realize that she was just getting to know a new community. I remember the brilliant night sky as we walked back to the mobile home, and discussing which of the heavenly bodies were planets.
Though my grandmother is known for her outrageous and sometimes risqué stories from serving in the army as a WAC during WWII, I don’t remember anything too wild from that trip. I do remember her reading to me from the devotional book that my parents sent
My grandmother tried to teach me to sew Barbie clothes. One year she gave me a miniature wardrobe full of handmade clothes as a Christmas/Hanukah? birthday? gift. The month that I stayed with her as a child, she set up a miniature dress form for me to practice on and taught me to make tiny stiches.
My grandmother ate healthily, and tried to make sure I did as well, when I was with her. She made a concession and attempted to make Kool Aid once. She did not seem know that the tablet of flavored dye was enough for a pitcher and not a cup, and that sugar was necessary. We added more and more water to that cup, but never did get the taste quite right. I think my tongue was purple for days.
I’m amazed, when I think back, at all the work my grandmother got done in the house and garden. I remember that garden already beginning to be filled with exotic plants when I left after a month. My family drove through the area a couple of years later, and her garden was incredible.
Over the next years, Grandma Carol hosted each of my siblings in turn. We all have our stories and memories. As time passed , we would receive newsletters filling us in on Grandma Carols volunteer work with veterans or her speaking in high schools. Her life has always taken on its own epic proportions.
In her later years, my grandmother moved to an assisted living situation in Oregon to be closer to my aunt. She came to the east coast again for a trip about 8 years ago, when my eldest was just an infant. Though her body was wearing out, she still regaled us with her tales, and left quite an impression with my husband’s family.
It is hard for me to think of Grandma Carol in any way that doesn’t include that spark and sparkle. After a series of recent hospitalizations, doctors spoke of hospice. Grandma Carol countered with plans to travel to Virginia and meet her great grandchildren. My (soon to be sainted) aunt came up with a compromise, and found air fare for 10 grandchildren and great grandchildren to fly up and see her.
So here we are. I want to record every story. I want my children to form their own stories and memories. I am so thankful for this opportunity.