On Sunday I had an urgent need to get outside, even though the weather was unpleasant and cold. I frantically put snowshoes and gear and the dog in the car, and waited as the windshield defrosted. On my way to go for a hike, I talked with Dad. That conversation left me feeling sad and desperate and glad to be alone. As I drove across the river, I noticed an Eagle high up in the tree. And as I looked around more I saw several hawks and raptors and crows perched in high branches facing my car. It was a grey, moody sky and the dark silhouettes of the birds seemed kind of like a premonition. I am not kidding, the birds lined the road for a while, and I really felt like it was a sign of something watching over me. Early the next morning I learned Grammy had passed away.
Simply put, Grammy lived a great life.
There are things that stick with me about her; memories that will never go away. I wish I could know all my grandparents this well, but that's the problem with living far away, or their having died young.
I remember Christmas in the basement on Livingston St, with trays of food and bowls of nuts. And a light mist of pipe and cigarette smoke overhead. There was a rotary phone down there also, and dark corners where the cats watched from, and toys stayed lost.
She had a laugh like a loon, which was no surprise because it was she and pop pop that started the fascination with going to Canada--camping and fishing and listening to the loons on the lakes at night. Every meal we had at her house came with a glass dish full of cut up vegetables. And always, ALWAYS ice cream or cake offered for dessert. If I had been a coffee drinker at the time, I also probably would have asked for a glass mug to be delivered on the tray with cream and spoons.
Jars full of red beet eggs, and of course, cherry tomatoes. Jonah helped arrange the broccoli and dips, about the best thing a little kid could do.
One steamy summer I stayed at her house and we sat outside with the neighbor and her daughter, talking and laughing into the sweaty night.
Grammy will always be my book lady. If I don't have a book on a shelf waiting to be read, I get antsy. I get that from her I believe--there were always baskets of books and books on shelves that she hadn't gotten to yet. Every time I mentioned one she said "I have heard of it" or, usually "oh yes, I read that" and then "take it, I can get another."
After she was living alone in her house, I remember being jealous of her freedom. Her ability to take trips across the ocean, and her new paint colors in the house. It seemed so wacky, all the changes she made, and usually one right after another. But I can see that there was nothing stopping her from finally getting a pink dining room, and an ocean blue kitchen. How lucky some artists were to have their paintings borrowed from the library as she rotated them on her walls.
There are stories I can remember, where we all just shook our heads....the fake fireplace installed with the flames upside down (thanks for that memory, Peter).
There are cats, and there are Grammy's cats. Pop Pop built a cat ladder with a window to the backyard, which was the best way they could give Calhoun, Putter, Shima and Zoe a view of the world. It was also bizarre to me that walking Molly the golden retriever, required a "poop bag." Yet those walks were wonderful in that we cruised the neighborhood looking at the lives of people in Bethlehem.
Grammy's nightly scrabble game trumped everything in the world. Even if we were watching Ren and Stimpy, or sitting around talking, the scrabble board and notebook came out. What I thought was a silly game obsession, I now realize it was the way to let a brilliant mind stretch its legs at night.
So now where will I go, and who do I call when I have a Pennsylvania Dutch story? Earlier this winter I was feeling a little lost, and happened to get out the cookbooks. I have Amish, Mennonite, and many PA Dutch cookbooks, and going through them made me feel the connection home, so I had to call her and say hello. We talked about pig knuckles and heavy meals, and visited for a few minutes like we were just right next door.
I read the obituary in the paper, and it seemed like an abbreviation for a blessed, touching life. My thoughts of Grammy and her household could fill pages...Christmas Eve at church, singing Silent Night with candles, the Moravian Bookstore, the Bethlehem Library, eating breakfast at Nick's, and banging on the organ (and immediately getting in trouble). Oh Grammy, I will miss you but wow what a life. I realize that daily I think of my relatives, and now there is a twinge when something reminds me of you. I can't wait until we all get to be together again, but yes, I am going to "Have a Great Life" like you told me to the last time we hugged.