She’s not my grandma. But I never knew what else to call her. My friend called her “Grandma Marie” because she is my friend’s grandma. And I never heard her called anything but “mom”, “grandma” or “Grandma Marie”. So “Grandma Marie” is what I called her. No one seemed to mind, least of all her.
Even when I was young I think I “towered” over her. Because she is not very tall. Not at all. But she is a bigger than life human being. She has taken care of everyone you can think of, then some.
She was always kind to me.
We were from different worlds. Though there was some physical distance between our homes, the difference was more in our cultures than the distance. She was country, I was coming from the city, but I believe I am genetically predisposed to country style living. She accepted me into her world without question or concern. And often was the time the country in Grandma Marie got a chuckle out of the city in me.
There was a time in my life when I saw her more than I saw my own grandparents.
Then there were times in my life where I didn’t see her at all.
Different roads to travel. Different directions to take. We all know how these things take us in and out of people’s lives.
But the road and the direction took me back to see her today.
And she smiled at me.
I stood close to her. By nature I am not a reach out and hug kind of human. But I don’t mind being close to people I trust. So we were close. At one point she reached out and grabbed my hand, and pulled me closer. One arm went up so I knew she wanted a hug. I leaned in for one. She pressed her jaw so very firmly into mine. One hand grasping my hand with a strength I wasn’t surprised by. And one arm locking me in, cheek to cheek, with her. She kept me there until she was good and ready to let go. I silently apologized in my head to her great-granddaughter who was getting a good look at the south end of me as it stuck up in the air. Grateful I wasn’t terrorizing her great-great-grandson who sat in a different direction.
When we separated I looked her in the eyes and told I loved her. Also not something easy for me.
But in that moment I saw flashes of Grandma Marie, and my childhood, and laughing. And good food. And acceptance. It was all reflected from her eyes and pulled like a magnet from that childhood, a flood of memories.
I so badly wanted to relive all of those moments right then. We did revisit a few of them, remembering people gone, and moments passed. I can vividly see her pulling up in front of her daughter’s house, just enough off of the road so cars and trucks coming from the other direction wouldn’t hit them. She would get out of the vehicle and say something all the way into the house, either yelling back to whoever was still in the car, or hollering forward to whoever she was going in to see.
No one has a voice like Grandma Marie. It is sweet, it is young, it couples with a very distinct laugh.
Before I left there was another hug. The same thing happened. She locked me to her cheek, forced her jaw into mine. Held on to me. She told me she’s been here a long time, longer than she ever thought she would be. Again, there were thoughts that came in rapid flashes of the things she has lived through. The “Great Depression”, too many wars, loss of family and friends, joys too numerous to count.
If we are lucky in life we meet characters. Characters who fill our memories, help us become who we are either by modeling what we want to be or showing us maybe that’s not the way to be. Grandma Marie is loyal, dedicated and did what she had to do to take care of her family. She was hard working. She loves and loved. She laughs and laughs well. More than once I heard her speak her mind because it needed said.
Grandma Marie is one of those characters in my life that is marked with a raveled and tattered book mark from the frequent returns to those memories and the appreciation for having been treated so well.
For all of the years she’s been here we need more years of more people like her.
95 seems at once such a very long time and at the same time not nearly long enough.