It has been a helluva past six months.
Kid finished 4th grade and, therefore, elementary school. I dyed my hair. Kid and I spent half the summer sick with various and sundry. My irises were gorgeous. We camped in the back yard. Grandma fell and couldn’t live at home anymore. We rode horses. I got stung by a wasp. Kid made her first short film as scriptwriter and director. Delightful float trip with friends. More illness on kid’s part. More illness on my part. Hard but glorious conversations. I set up an Etsy shop. Kid started 5th grade at middle school. I dyed my hair. I painted. I wrote. I painted and wrote some more. I held a lemur and got my second tattoo (those two events were not related). Kid turned 11.
On September 9, 2023, after nearly a week of being mostly unresponsive, Grandma died at age 101. I don’t want to write about my experience of her death here. All I want to say is: she lived an absolutely incredible life. Daughter of a sharecropper, raised during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, married at 18, first-time mother at 20, loss of her second child at 22, working in her home and out of it, selling cosmetics so they could afford music lessons for the kids, always church-going and God-fearing, teaching her children to prize education and kindness, a woman of unparalleled generosity in hospitality, watched her children grow up and move to the other side of the country and the other side of the world, reveled in having grandchildren (wishing she’d had us first!), full of sometimes short temper and always laughter, artist whose hands stitched over 100 quilts and gave most of them away, expert cook and baker who really could have opened and run a restaurant, saw the death of another of her children, wife of more than 78 years when her husband died, worker of word-finds and player of dominoes, gradually losing almost all memory but still laughing and smiling a week before her death, telling me, “I don’t quit!”
“I know you don’t, Grandma — that’s why you’re still here!”
And now she’s not.
Not because she quit. But because she was simply finished and it was time.
I’m feeling grief, sorrow, relief, frustration, longing, joy, sadness. All of these, all at once, pretty much all the time. She was a lover and a fighter, and that’s all I can ever hope to be, even though I come at it from a completely different worldview. I could write an entire book about how much that woman frustrated me and how deeply I admire her.
Bookends: Grandpa died as I was reading aloud to him and to the family present from 2. Corinthians. Four-and-a-half years later, Grandma died less than 5 minutes after I finished reading 2. Corinthians aloud to her and to the family present. That means a lot to me.
Jan. 16, 1922 – Sept. 9, 2023