Saturday, 8 September 2012

For my Grandma, in loving memory


I meant to publish this post to mark the fortieth day since my grandmother's passing on July 28th. Those who are quicker at math than I will note I am two days late. My apologies to my family if I've gotten any details wrong - please let me know and I'll correct them.
 
There was a little woven knick-knack that sat for years on a shelf at my grandparents' farm house. It was a simple thing, yarn threaded through a plastic frame, which, as first glance, depicted only a series of red geometrical shapes on a white background. If you changed your focus, however, you would soon see that white was actually meant to be both border and foreground, spelling out, in clear block letters, the name of Jesus.

I remember my Grandma much like that woolen piece, quiet and unassuming, homey and dear, but with an unwavering love and a firm faith that was clear to see, if only you knew how to look for it. I don't recall her saying many "I love you"s, though I never much noticed the lack. Her love was something done so often it hardly needed to be said. It was there in her letters, one for every birthday card, in her skill for choosing just the right book for Christmas, in her afternoon teas - complete with games and goodies - there in every hug.

Grandma didn't save all her treasures 'til the end either; she distributed what keepsakes she had years ago, each with a letter detailing whatever she could remember of that particular memento's significance. The real treasures, of course, were the stories, little windows into our own family history. From the exciting tale of Grandpa subconsciously nabbing a cross from a battle-strewn graveyard as a soldier in the Second World War, to the box where my great grandfather kept his stamps, each grandchild got their own piece of our past, a little something to help us remember a bit of where we came from.

My fondest memory of my Grandma happened when I was a pre-teen, during one of her and Grandpa's regular visits to my parents home. Over the years, Grandma had developed the crafty habit of scheduling various doctors appointments, not in nearby Weyburn, but in Regina and Saskatoon - an hour and four hour drives from the farm, respectively - just to have frequent excuses to stay with her children and their families.

Such stays were invariably precluded by a crash course in remedial manners, for my Mom wasn't about to have her loving yet very proper mother-in-law suffer any rudeness from her grandchildren. And so, when I saw Grandma sitting alone in our living room, tattered mystery novel in hand, I figured the polite thing to do would be to sit down and talk to her. She patiently listened to me prattle on a few minutes until she found a space to interject: "Now, I'm really enjoying talking to you, Rachel," she said gently, "but I just started this book in car on the drive down, and I'd like to finish it, because I don't quite remember how this one ends." Relieved, I got my own book and sat down across from her, delighted to join in the peculiar habit among my Dad's adult relatives of driving several hours only to sit in the same room together and read.

I think of that exchange often, when reading in companionable silence, and particularly when I pick up a book I've read many times before. Returning to a well-loved book is akin to watching the cycle of the seasons: you can take comfort from the familiar storyline even as you delight in the details you've forgotten since the last go 'round. I look forward to the day my memory's faded enough to rediscover the conclusions of my own favourite whodunits.

Memory eternal Grandma. 'Til we read together again.

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