‘Grandma’ Is Not an Adjective
“Oh no, dear, my hands are too old now…”
“Please try, Grandma, please play for me again…”
She was ninety years old that day in the retirement center. How I loved her! All of my life was filled with her piano music because that is how she made a living during those dark days of the great depression, and that is how she calmed her mind and made her granddaughter smile as I grew. My Grandma, sustained by rugged faith in God, weathered incredible storms in her long life. The youngest of twelve children, she came out west with her family in the early 1900’s. Her husband made peanut brittle in a big copper kettle that stands proudly in my living room today. He sold it along with tamales and nickel hamburgers to all who would stop along the Everett-Bothell highway. And on Friday and Saturday, after dinner, Grandma would play in the honky-tonks and make five dollars a night. She loved to tell me these stories over and over again.
Grandma bore three children, two boys and a girl. Her daughter was my mother. From the time I first saw her beautiful face; my Grandma had a smile for me. She loved with abandon and there is no memory of complaint. I could do no wrong in her eyes, and that day I asked her to play for me, she, as always, obliged.
Slowly she bent to pull the bench away and I quickly leaned to help. My Grandma sat at the piano one more time before she died and she played for me with stiff fingers a melody punctuated by knobby knuckles. She missed several notes and struck incomplete cords but the music rang through the years of my heart like the world’s best symphony.
Her piano rests in my family room now, silent and out of tune. How I wish I could see her strong back once more shadow the keys and her ready smile beam as the bogey-wogey rolled. You are greatly missed, dear lady, and even though you have been gone these many years, tears flow as I remember you. No, dear reader, ‘Grandma’ is not an adjective!
When I was so little, and wept for long hours for my missing daddy, it was Grandma who held me and rocked me against her beating heart until my sobs were quiet. She knew my hurt. She hurt with me, and we were bound together with closeness so precious that no thing could ever compare. Sometimes I just sit and touch the keys on her piano and remember, and weep. As I grew, so did her love for me. She warned me to be a good girl, but I wasn’t. I didn’t see her often enough to hold me together, and the hurt won. As the years unwound, I fought back my loneliness with teenage rebellion and wildness. Then Grandpa died way too early. Now, I had NO man in my life at all. But, Grandma came to live with us! What joy!
“Honey, we just need to pray,” were her favorite words to me. And when only distance from home would calm the craziness and everyone wrote me off for lost, it was the prayers of Grandma that held me by a thread to sanity. Somewhere I have a few letters she wrote me during those months of running. Always positive and full of love, her words guided me back to a faith I barely remembered. She always spoke of God. Her prayers and her love of the Bible formed a net that caught my falling soul. No, my friend, ‘Grandma” is not an adjective!
She married badly, I think now, just to relieve my mom of the responsibility of caring for her. Then, when they moved to a city to the north, I helped her load the van. She would watch his moves carefully, and when he was out of ear-shot she would quietly slip a treasure into my hand and say, “Here, darling, put this in your car quickly.” He was a selfish and greedy man that broke her heart many times; the extent of which I knew only after her passing.
It was then my mother told me how he would make her buy her own food from her meager monthly check, and how he took her name off the checking account one time when she got sick. I guess that day she secretly gave me some of her treasures, I knew things really were not right with this man. Had I known fully, perhaps I could have made a difference. But, alas, regrets pile themselves higher and higher when beloveds pass away.
Through it all, you never heard her complain. I just remember her smile and cheerful ways that always encouraged me and all of us. How I miss her! Interestingly, when I attended the funeral for this selfish man she married, there was only one other person in the room besides his equally evil daughter and her strange son. I was glad to be there though because she would have wanted me to be there to show respect. That is the kind of woman that influenced me so deeply. “Grandma” is surely not an adjective.
She held my two baby sons and watched them grow. Then she got to hold our little daughter and know her for a couple of years before she left us forever. I gave our daughter her name in the middle to keep the legacy alive, and vicariously forced the child to master the piano in her honor. And master it she has! Grandma would be so very happy to hear how lovely her great granddaughter plays. Perhaps she hears from heaven. I do hope so.
Recently, while shopping together, my daughter who bears this legacy frowned at a choice I made in clothing: “No, Mother, that is very ‘Grandma’ looking.” All the tender moments with Grandma flashed in my mind. All the happy memories of her laughter and her love froze me in place. She taught me to play poker and made me butter and sugar sandwiches. She made my bed for me so I could go out to play. She spoiled me and prayed for me. She loved me when no one else did, and she listened and believed and gave me faith in my storms of life. The remark was not intentionally offensive but I wanted to shout, “’Grandma’ is NOT an adjective.”
Grandma is an angel I hope to hug again one day. Thank you for loving me, dear Grandma and until that reunion over there, I hope to be a little like you to the grandchildren I adore down here.