On Thursday night, my grandmother passed away. She was 79 years old.
She had 6 kids. 3 girls and 3 boys.
She had 13 grandchildren.
She had 25 great-grandchildren.
She had 1 great-great-grandchild, and another on the way.
My grandmother was amazing. She was the epicenter of her family. She was divorced, and with 6 kids relying on her alone, worked two jobs until she was in her 60s and health problems forced her to retire. But despite her health problems, she never complained, and she was never still. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, quilted, crocheted, made dolls, and babysat her grandkids and great-grandkids.
My grandma was also a miracle worker when it came to making do with very little to next to nothing. She raised 6 kids all on her own, and so innovation was key. My grandma could make full meals out of scraps. I remember calling my grandma and telling her what we had in the fridge, and asking her for meal suggestions. It would go something like this: "Grandma, I have 3 cans of corn, a sleeve of saltines, a can of cream of mushroom soup, mustard, and some chicken nuggets. What can I make?" And she would come up with at least three different meals that could be made with those ingredients. And it would always be delicious!
For as long as I can remember, I've never seen her house empty. It was always hectic with people in and out, kids everywhere, clutter and sewing supplies and chaos everywhere, and grandma in the middle of it all, loving every bit of it. With the TV on (usually to either the Weather Channel or a soap opera), with the doors and windows open, box fans circulating hot summer air, and a baby on her knee, grandma would be in her glory.
But I wouldn't want to give a false impression of her as a sweet little old lady. My grandmother was tough and took zero shit from anyone. If she had something to say, she said it. If she didn't like something you did or said, you knew it, and there was absolutely no confusion about how she felt.
There are lots of "legends" surrounding my grandma and her wicked temper and deadly aim. For instance, when my uncle was a kid back in the 60s, he liked to bother grandma while she was on the phone. She'd tell him to knock it off, but he was a pisser and didn't really listen. So, one day, he was pestering her, and she got tired of it... and so she whipped the phone at him, hitting him in the forehead, and caught the phone on the rebound without even missing a beat in the conversation. It didn't hurt him, but it sure as hell got his attention.
Or there was the time that my brother decided that he didn't want to march with his graduating class. He was adamant, and nothing anyone said or did would change his mind. So dad said that my brother had to OK the decision with grandma. So my brother says, "Fine. I'm not walking with them. I don't want to, and I'm just going to pick up my diploma and leave. Grandma's not going to change my mind."
So when my brother tells grandma, she says, "You're walking. Order your cap and gown. This isn't up for debate."
And so my brother walked with his class. There is no telling grandma no when she's got her mind set on something.
My grandma's wake is tomorrow, and I'm not looking forward to it at all. Not just because it will be sad, and it will be the last time that I will ever see my grandma, but also because my family can be very... difficult. They all love grandma, and unfortunately, they see it as something of a competition, which is frustrating, especially for those of us who live so far away and are sort of made to feel as if we're outsiders and interlopers in the family's grief.
But tomorrow isn't about them, it's about my grandma, and how much she was - is - loved, and how much she will be missed. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had her as my grandma and I will miss her terribly.
Love you, Grandma! ♥