We lost my Grandma Claire on Thursday. It was time; she'd lived a long and wonderful life. She'd struggled with various health problems over the last several years, and she was ready. We'll miss her, but she's in a better place now, and we'll see her when we get there.
She was, I believe, 87 years old. I need to double-check that with Mom because I can't find my baby book that will tell me. She and Grandpa Art celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in November. November 11, Armistice Day. On their honeymoon, they stopped at a hotel in North Bend, Washington. I can't exactly remember what they ate there (I used to know) but I know they went back for an anniversary celebration many years later and whatever it was, it just wasn't the same. But it never is, is it?
Grandma was born and raised in Seattle. When she was young, she used to roller skate on the brick streets. When I was little and we were up visiting, I would go into the bedroom with Grandpa every morning to take Grandma her coffee and wake her up. To give each other quiet time, Grandpa would sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Grandma would sleep from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. So, every morning Grandpa would take her her coffee in bed. When I was there, we'd go in and sing (to the happy birthday tune) "Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning dear Grandma, good morning to you!" Grandpa would kiss her good morning, and then he'd leave. I'd sit down on the floor by her bed and she would tell me stories about growing up in Seattle.
Grandma had two sisters, Viola and Marge. No brothers. Her dad always wanted a boy, and Grandma was a bit of a tomboy, so she was her father's "son". He called her Tuff. In later years, when Grandma took up oil painting, that was how she signed all her paintings. She wanted to be a veterinarian, but her father said that no daughter of his was going to go to college, so she gave up that dream. She worked at a department store, and I think she worked as a hair dresser for a while. But I don't ever remember her working. I just know that she got a pension from the department store, and that was her spending money.
When my mom was little, they bought some property and Grandpa built them a house. But, while the house was being built, they had to live in a tent. So, the city girl from Seattle moved to a tent in the woods. Good thing she was a tomboy!
Grandma and Grandpa were both great dancers. They went dancing every Saturday night when they were dating and in the early years of their marriage, and probably even later. I remember watching them dance at their 50th anniversary party; they were so light on their feet and in perfect unison. It was magical to watch them together.
Each summer growing up, Mom and Dad would send us each for a stay at Grandma and Grandpa's. Grandma wasn't the home cooking, cookie baking type of Grandma. She hated to cook (though she was good at it), but she did spoil us rotten. When we got there, we'd go to the store and pick out treats. I always went to day camp while I was there, and so she'd get Hostess Snowballs and pop to put in my lunches. And she'd buy me Cookie Crisp cereal for breakfast. I still love that junky pure sugar to this day. At night, when I was homesick and couldn't sleep, she'd give me warm milk with vanilla and sugar and let me sit up with her for a while. Then she'd give me one of her stuffed goats to snuggle with and send me off to bed.
Grandma collected goats. Everywhere we went, every knicknack and antique store we went in to, all of us were constantly on the lookout for new and unusual goats. I'm sure I'll catch myself looking in the future, and maybe I'll even buy one or two in her memory. That stuffed goat I always slept with now resides on my bedside table - I got him when Grandma and Grandpa moved out of their house last fall.
When I was there in the summers, we always went sightseeing in Seattle. Between my brothers and me, Grandma must have seen those sights at least 100 times. Grandma didn't drive (she could, but she hated it), so we took the bus and went to Seattle Center. Never up the Space Needle, but I do remember going in the Bubbleator, which was a GIANT elevator shaped like a big bubble. You could see all around in it. The summer after I turned 8 they took me on a tour to an Indian Village. It was a boat ride over, and when we got off the boat they gave us steamed clams, and then there was a salmon dinner with a dancing performance. It's 24 years later and I still remember it vividly. One summer we made a sweatshirt together. It was white, with Disney character faces all over it. One summer we painted matching teddy bear pictures. I still have mine up in the attic. Grandma was a great painter. Me, not so much. But she tried. One summer she taught me to knit. I made it to the potholder stage! One summer we painted sweatshirts. That was fun. I got to wear my art.
Grandma loved black licorice. On Sunday I kept thinking we should have had black jelly beans for Easter - there were always some in their house (can you still buy those bags of just black ones?). One year for her birthday I gave her some licorice from another country, I don't remember which one. Anyway, Grandma opened it up, popped one in her mouth, and got the weirdest look on her face. I asked what was wrong, and she looked at the label. Turned out the price sticker was covering the part where it said double-salted licorice! I tried a piece - it was the nastiest thing I've ever eaten (next to Dad's limburger cheese, but that's a story for another time). Like rock salt with licorice flavoring thrown in for good measure. Anyway, we got a big laugh out of that and I bought her GOOD licorice next time!
In spite of all her health problems and the fact that a lot of the time throughout her life she just didn't feel well, Grandma had the BEST sense of humor. She had a very quick wit, and could sling zingers with the best of them. She and my Dad could go at it for hours. She spilled down her front almost every time she ate, and one of her great lines was "I look good in anything I eat". She joked about having a "shelf" to keep her leftovers (we are a well-endowed family). When she and Grandpa moved, I got a couple of her cookbooks. Tucked inside one of them was a type-written recipe for turkey stuffing - the main ingredient was raw popcorn, and you knew the turkey was done when the turkey's ass blew off. THAT was the kind of sense of humor Grandma had.
One Christmas when we got to their house she called us all into the kitchen. Sitting on the table was a small, leafless branch in a pot with a shotgun shell hanging off of it. She asked if we knew what it was. None of us did. "It's a cartridge in a bare tree" was the reply. Then she pulled out a round stick, painted white, with colorful polka dots on it. She asked if we knew what THAT was. Again, none of us did. "It's a spotted dowel" (you might have to read it out loud to get the joke). We laughed so hard tears ran down our faces. THAT was the kind of sense of humor Grandma had.
Such is my little tribute to Grandma. I could write more, and I should. I've already forgotten so much. I don't want to forget any more. I may write more in this very blog, we'll see. Thank you for indulging me in my sentimentality.
Goodbye, Grandma. I love you.