This year between my 49th birthday and my 50th birthday I’m paying tribute to 50 women or groups of women who have shaped me and have made a personal impact on my life.
Today is #2 of the Women of Influence in my life. Today I’d like to introduce you to my Granny. She was the BEST! Granny was in my life for as long as I can remember. My very first memories are of sleepovers at her house with my cousins. We would wake up and she would make us French toast with melted butter and warmed jam on top. I would go visit Granny about once a month. She would drive an hour to pick me up on Saturday morning, drive me to her place an hour away and then return me Sunday morning before 9 AM. Now for a little girl that doesn’t mean a thing but now as I think back about just how much driving that is…. I’m beyond in love with my beloved Granny. Granny is my first dad’s mom and she’s been my angel since I was born and is even more an angel now. Granny crossed over to the “great beyond” about three years ago and although I miss our talks in this physical world…. We still have some really great conversations.
Granny used to tell me that I was her angel. When I was very little she had cancer and went in for radiation treatments. She told me the treatments would make her very sick and she didn’t want anyone to visit her at the hospital except me. She would tell my dad to leave me and go away. Well, I’ve been a “button pusher” my whole life and this is probably where it all began. She said I would push all the buttons, make the bed go up and down, turn her into a taco with the feet going up and the head going up. I’d pull the tubes out of her nose and step all over her. The doctors were afraid that I would hurt her but she insisted that I was the best medicine for her to get better. And get better she did and it’s a good thing she did because she had so many adventures ahead of her… with me! She had to read Rupert the Rhinoceros to me about a hundred billion times. “Read it again! Read it again!” I would tell her. She instilled a love of reading, a love of poetry and a love for learning early in my life. When I was in junior high we read A Tale of Two Cities together…. Where my love for all things France began…. and she helped me write a book report about it. Actually, I think she wrote the book report and I sat and nodded my head. I guess that’s where I also learned my great “tutoring” skills. I felt so loved when she would spend her time assisting me in whatever I was learning.
Granny would pay me a quarter to wash her walls. I’m pretty sure now that I’m an adult, that’s not really a thing because I don’t ever wash my walls per se. Of course the ones that get grimey fingerprints on them get washed but not ALL of them. I think this was Granny’s way of instilling a good work ethic in me. I had many good examples of this in my life and it has always paid off.
Granny would also record “The Dukes of Hazzard” for me so I could watch it when I came to visit. She did things like this all the time and it made me feel so special and so loved. She would laugh at my silly little jokes. She would ask me to sing for her all the time. For a VERY long time I was convinced I had a fabulous voice, then I recorded myself and had a listen….. Let’s just say my Granny sure loved me to keep listening to me singing “Memories” as a nine year old.
As I got older Granny became one of my best friends. I would call her at least once a week (and that was back in the day of long distance phone calls) and I would talk to her for at least an hour. I would call collect and Grandpa would always accept the charges, then say “Hello kiddo, let me get Granny for you.” She knew all my best friends and was in the know about any cute boys I had been scoping out. She would listen to my teenage drama and give me all the encouragement I needed to keep the drama going. When my high school boyfriend broke up with me, she cried with me. After hours of sobbing about the betrayal, Granny suggested we put a spell on him. It was the perfect thing to lift my spirits. Then I’m sure she made me french toast with melted butter and warmed jam to make me feel even better.
When I went off to college we kept in touch quite often and when I made some bad choices and decided to move back. Granny drove five hours to help me pack up and drive back home. We had many deep talks in those days. She told me her theory on God. She suggested maybe God was not as judgemental as I had been led to believe. She told me she thought He was a merciful God who just wanted His children to have different experiences in this life. She believed there was no good or bad, just the experiencing of life in all its many fashions as long as it wasn’t hurting others. It seemed like an interesting theory that I would return to later in my life, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop damning myself to hell just yet. I found out just a few years ago that Granny had assisted one of my best friends down this similar road that I had travelled and I’d never even known about it. When my friend shared this with me just a few years ago, it made me realize just what a fabulous human my Granny really had been. Not only did she love me … she genuinely loved my friends too.
I moved away and our phone conversations continued as usual but were less frequent now as I had gotten married and had little kids of my own to keep me busy. Granny would sometimes send me a little letter, letting me know how much she loved me. She would start the letter, “Dear Sistah” ….now looking back I realize that sometimes in life if you are lucky enough, you get to choose some pretty amazing women to also be your “sisters”. We truly were best friends and as close as any sisters.
Later in life I was fortunate enough to move back to Salt Lake and spend the last years of my Granny’s life with her. It was so hard to leave Portland and leave my teenage boys there as I started a new life in Utah but the silver lining were those weekly visits with my Granny. When she first went into the Assisted Living I knew she was a little nervous. I visited often and we would laugh and laugh about the article I was going to submit about her to the monthly newsletter at the assisted living center. I told her I was going to make it juicy and scandalous. She feigned horror but secretly loved our scandalous stories we would make up. She would often ask what I thought she should be when she grew up, I told her I thought she should become a bank robber. We both agreed this would be advantageous as they were likely to go easier on her because of her age.
That’s the relationship we had. It was deep and somber when it needed to be and magical and hysterical when it could be. Granny started losing her memory and you could tell her the same story about every 20 minutes. This was great for my ego when I was returning to school to get my bachelors degree. I was really intimidated at the idea of going back to school in my forties but Granny was so excited for me…. Every twenty minutes her excitement at my “new” announcement boosted my confidence. I like to think I helped out with her confidence too when I went to visit her one time and she’d fallen and banged herself up pretty good. She had a black eye and a hurt ankle. She couldn’t remember that she had fallen so when she asked what had happened to her, of course I told her that we had gone to a biker bar and she had gotten into a fight but that it was all in standing up for my honor and the other guy looked way worse. I don’t think we have ever laughed so hard together.
Whenever I would go visit Granny I would always ask if she would like to go out and get something to eat for lunch. She had loved when grandpa would bring home a cheeseburger so I offered to take her out for a good old fashioned cheeseburger. For years she told me no every time I offered. Then one afternoon she said yes. I was shocked!!! I helped her get all ready and I pulled my SUV to the front of the assisted living center and helped her get in. We went to a burger place just down the road and had a fabulous lunch. As we finished up lunch and headed back to the car. I noticed that the parking lot was on a bit of a slope and now the “step” into the SUV was a lot higher than it had been on flat ground back at the assisted living. I tried to give Granny a boost to help her in but there was no boosting happening. I tried to encourage a little hop but there hadn’t been a hop in Granny for quite some time. I sort of just sat there and panicked, we had just had a fabulous lunch and now I couldn’t get my Granny back into the car to get her back home. I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly at all as I tried shoving, pushing, lifting and all other physical strength moves to get her back into the vehicle. She was a bit panicked as well and I could tell anxiety was setting in. I thought to myself…. GREAT! I’m going to have to call my dad and tell him I gave his mom a heart attack right after I took her out for lunch. As I stepped back and turned around for a moment to assess the situation (and possibly call in Trent because he ALWAYS knows what to do), I turned back around to see my Granny crawling up on to the floorboards like a three year old getting into the car. It worked!!! I got her back home safe and sound and vowed to never take her out in a “big” car ever again. We laughed all the way back to the assisted living center and I do believe she had the best night of sleep she had experienced in quite some time after all that climbing!
When the time came to say my earthly goodbye to Granny I thought I would be ready. But I wasn’t. She was in the hospital and the family had all been called to say their last goodbyes. I took my turn sitting with her. She was asleep and wasn’t responding to anyone or anything. I held her hand and I cried. I told her I wasn’t ready for her to go. I begged her to stay. I knew it wasn’t fair, she wanted to go see grandpa. She didn’t want to be at the assisted living center anymore. We had often talked about why she was still alive and in those moments…. Before this final moment….. I was ok with telling her to go to sleep and go find grandpa. But now that it was really happening, I selfishly couldn’t let her go. I wanted to know she was just up the road and I could go laugh with her anytime I wanted to. I wanted to make up stories with her. I wanted to talk with her in a british accent and put spells on all the girls that had been mean to us when we were little. (We often joked about “the mean girls”.) Now, as I was supposed to gracefully let her go, I couldn’t. I held her hand with tears running down my cheeks and begged her to stay a little longer….. And so she did. They took her back to her room at the Assisted Living and called in hospice.
Our family all took turns sitting with her for the next few days. One night as I sat next to her, she opened her eyes and looked over at me. I was holding her hand and she tugged on me. I climbed up in bed with her and just snuggled up next to her. We looked deep into each other’s eyes and she put my hand on her heart. We told each other how much we meant to each other, without a word, just our hearts spoke. I heard it loud and clear. Then I kissed her forehead and told her it was ok to go now. She fell asleep. When she woke up I was still holding her hand and I was now sitting next to the bed. Her eyes were alive and she sat up with more energy than she had shown in weeks. Granny hadn’t spoken in days but she said out loud, “Sheri? Are you ready??” I said, “Yes Granny what are we doing?” She said we were going to do our multiplications. I excitedly agreed and I watched as my Granny returned to her days as a third grade teacher. She was teaching her class, she was there, she could see the students and she was talking to all of them. I had never seen her in third grade teacher action and it was so beautiful to watch her visit this part of her life, which she had dearly loved. She kept coming back to me for participation and I was glad she had taught me my times tables so many years ago. My dad was on the other side of the room. He eased himself forward in his chair, a little worried about what was happening. I could feel he was uncomfortable watching his mom act “crazy” but somehow with me going along with her, guiding her, asking her questions…. somehow, he knew it was alright, I think for the first time in his life, he trusted me…. And he saw the precious relationship we had always shared. Every few minutes Granny would stop talking and get still. Then she would start a new scenario, as if she were visiting the best parts of her life. I feel so blessed to have been able to witness this and I feel that she wanted to show me these parts of who she was…. And so she did, with her heart connected to mine, I could see and feel it all. Eventually, she grew very tired and told me she was going to rest for a little bit.
I was exhausted too so I went home to clean up and get some sleep. When I returned my sweet cousin met me in the hallway with tears running down her cheeks. She told me that Granny was gone. I already knew. She had waited until I could let her go.
There are so many more stories for me to tell you what my Granny meant to me but I’ll stop here and maybe if you can drop down into your heart and connect with my heart, you will feel just how much more is there. My Granny was so much to me. She made me want to be a better person….. She accepted me for who I was, flaws and all… and she knew every dark secret. She forgave me when I didn’t have time for her. She always knew how to make me laugh and would always laugh at my wit (even when it wasn’t funny). She taught me to not be the mean girl because everyone is facing their own battle. She instilled in me a passion to guide others to know just how amazing they are just by being themselves….. She did this by showing me just how amazing I am, just by being me!!! She taught me how to love myself, flaws and all.
So many women have had an incredible impact on me…I know without a doubt that my Granny and I have been best friends far before this world. We made a pact to do this life as grandmother and grand-daughter this time around….. And it became, so much more!!! My Granny impacted ALL of who I am and she continues to inspire, encourage and make me laugh from the “great beyond”.
Dear Sistah….. Thank you for everything you have given me, because of you….. I have been changed, for good.