I’m still slowly working my way through her diaries. Today, I thought perhaps I’d just write about all the memories that the entries are inspiring.
My Gran was a formidable woman. Despite her anxiety issues, she managed to raise two kids almost completely on her own. I remember her working in a mall jewelry shop when I was little. When she died, I expected there would be a lot of jewelry, even though I rarely saw her wear it. She always had multiple rings. And she brought out her pins on special occasions. There wasn’t quite so much as I thought. I have a delicate gold necklace. It’s got a bit of a swirl and some small pearls and diamonds in it. I don’t remember her wearing it – but I asked her about it when I ended up with it after my father cleared out her house. She got it from her father for her 18th birthday.
Her dad died around the same time I was born. By all accounts, he was a gentle man. He emigrated in the early part of the 20th century. He was a weaver – and I’m sure he had visions of the new world. I’m not sure if he met my great grandmother over here – or if he knew the family before he left, but he married her here. She and her family were from the same part of England and were weavers too. They were from Manchester – and carried the accent from the region. He ended up enlisting and was away for several years after my Gran was born. He was gassed in a mustard gas attack – and I understand that he never spoke of the war when he returned. He had a creative streak. I have paintings and drawings that he created in a box in my basement. Some day, I’ll frame them. One of my favorites is a pencil drawing of one of the rooms in the Queen’s palace in London. It’s incredibly detailed.
I do remember her mother. She was a very healthy size. Mom says I used to try to nurse when I was little. I remember her being squishy. I have vague memories of her voice and an English accent. Like her husband, she emigrated when she was almost twenty. I remember her hands – they had spots on them. I’m the end, like Gran, she lost all her weight. She died in her nineties like Gran.
My great grandparents had two more children. One of my aunts settled with her husband on the same street as my gran. She never had any children – but she doted on my father and his sister, and then their children.
The other sister left at sixteen to see the world. She modeled. She ended up in England and married an older man in London. They had two children much younger than my father. She divorced and ended up in Palm Springs. I never actually met her – but we had regular phone calls with her on the holidays. She would ask what I’d got for Christmas and how I was doing in school.
Gran continued to live in the same house after her husband died. I remember regularly going shopping with her and my mother. I don’t remember when she started smoking – but I know that despite the attempts she lists in her diary, she didn’t stop until she ended up in the hospital before my father put her in the home. Despite watching her sister’s husband die of lung cancer.
I remember the deaths. And the funerals. I’m fuzzy on the order, but I remember her mother. It was a dignified funeral. Expected.
I remember her sister’s husband. He was a boxer. He used to hold a dollar bill up and tell us we could keep it if we could catch it with two fingers. He declined rapidly after he got the cancer. It devastated his once healthy body. I don’t remember his funeral. But I know there was one and I went. It was tragic. He was in his sixties.
I remember when my cousin died too. I was eight. I didn’t know what was happening. My father was beside himself. I still question how it happened. Eighteen is so young. More tragedy.
I remember too when her sister died. I wasn’t speaking to my father at the time. I slipped into the service after it started and left before it ended.
But in the in betweens…so many happy memories. Going to the beach and playing in the sand. Getting ice cream or fish and chips. Ordering in Chinese food and playing Rummoli. Putting together puzzles on Gran’s kitchen table. Reading the Reader’s Digests in her sun room. Making snow men in her back yard and dressing them with hats and shoes and sunglasses. Planting flowers in her large garden. Mowing her lawn. She had a big claw foot tub upstairs that you could just sink into. The feel of the brown shag carpet on my hands as I sat on the floor and opened presents or watched TV, or my sister and I made a play. We’d visit every Halloween so she could see our costumes. I remember taking my babies to meet her for the first time. Her hands by that point shrunken and spotted like her own mothers…like mine some day, if I make it that long.
I miss her today.
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