Family

My Grandmother is Dying

I keep telling myself that it’s crazy that I still have 4 out of 5 grandparents (4 biological grandparents and one step-grandfather). I know people close to my age that don’t have any. I must have some excellent longevity genes or something.

However, my paternal grandmother is pretty sick and needs surgery to fix her health issues and she’s decided against it. So, she’s on hospice now.

I was talking to my parents about the memorial service and they mentioned that she wanted grandchildren to speak, if they wanted to.

Well, I want to and I want her to hear what I’m going to say before she dies, so I thought I would go ahead and type up what I want my grandmother to hear about her legacy before she goes.

Pat was my Grandmother. That’s what we called her- Grandmother. No bells or whistles- tell it like it is. A fitting name for such a lady.

My grandfather (we called him “granddaddy”) died when I was in college and for several years afterwards, I felt the ache of his absence, in part because I never got to know him as a friend. Meaning…he was always my granddaddy, there for zoo trips and hikes in Colorado. But when I entered adulthood and wanted to know his opinion on certain theological issues or to talk politics, I realized that I missed getting to know him as an adult.

I did not make that mistake with Grandmother. One thing I appreciated about Grandmother is that she was always game for a serious discussion. We would go back and forth about all sorts of issues- sometimes we agreed, sometimes we didn’t. I knew that she respected my opinions and really wanted to know my honest thoughts. She was my friend and I’m thankful that I got the chance to know her as an adult.

If I had to pick one story to illustrate the kind of legacy that she leaves behind, it has to do with ham and a bathroom. I must have been a young teen and I was spending some time with them alone at their house. The guest bathroom had one of those pocket doors, where the door slides into the wall. To lock that door, you turned a small dial and, inside the door, a tiny hook would fall onto a tiny latch. I had finished bathing and, upon trying to exit the bathroom, I realized that the door had latched and the dial had become disconnected from the hook. So…I was trapped.

I’m sure I yelled and banged on the door asking for someone to come rescue me and I don’t remember it taking too long- maybe 15 minutes. While Grandaddy got to work with his tools to get the door open, Grandmother approached and we had this conversation through the door:

G: BETH…

Me: Yes?

G: I brought you some ham…so you don’t get hungry.

Me:Uh….it’s only been 15 minutes.

G: I know, I know, but I don’t want you to starve in there!

Me: Well, how would I get it? The door is locked.

G: Oh, I’ll just slide it under. It’ll fit!

I declined the under-the-door ham but I think that story is a good illustration of what my Grandmother has left me with.

For one, she taught me it’s okay to be quirky and let loose a little, whether that means pushing all the furniture out of the way so that we can all do square dancing together or passing out toddler instruments to everyone so we can bang along while she plays Christmas carols.  Those are the kinds of things that you remember for a lifetime, because they felt so strange when we were doing them, but now I really appreciate that level of quirkiness.

She would do anything for family, even if it meant stuffing a piece of ham under a door for her granddaughter. I can confidently say that she and Grandaddy gave us the gift of understanding that family is important. And that is a gift that will keep on giving into the future generations of the Feemster clan. She cared really deeply and really strongly and we all knew it.

This has nothing to do with the ham story, but Grandmother and Grandaddy truly opened up the world to me. She exposed me to the symphony and the ballet and live theater and she would drag us around the Amon Carter museum giving us a private tour. While there were times where I cringed at going to an art museum, funny enough, I now find myself wanting to drag my kids to museums. It must have sunk in.
And we traveled together- once to England, where Grandmother would ask me every morning if I had had a BM, which is literally the most embarrassing question you could ask a 13-year-old. She wanted me to see the world, to experience other cultures, to get outside myself. And I feel like that was one of the most formative parts of my childhood that I owe all to her and Grandaddy.

I will miss Grandmother, my friend. But I also know that she was ready- ready to shed her aged body and ready to be whole again. While there will be days that I will miss her physical presence, I know that I have memories and traditions and values that she gave to me and my family. She will live on in those.

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4 thoughts on “My Grandmother is Dying

  1. Beautiful Beth. It speaks to her heart. Thank you for sharing the ham story. I never heard that one before. I do remember the door though.

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