I lost my grandmother last week. When she was starting to get dementia, one of her persistent fears was about being forgotten. I don’t know if that’s just the way her brain reacted to the things she was forgetting herself, or if it was from her own experiences working as a nurse in a seniors home, but I feel like I should honour her memory by writing something even though I’m honestly not ready to do this yet. But I’m starting now anyhow.
She grew up in southern Ontario, and her dad was the lighthouse keeper in Long Point, Lake Erie. This left her with a lifelong fondness for lighthouses, so when I started traveling on my own as a young adult I would often find postcards of lighthouses or other nature photography to send her. I used to budget some time in every trip to find and write a postcard to her.
She made lifelong friends in nursing school, lived in France and the US as a military wife before coming back to Canada, and raised my mom and uncle in all those places.
Obviously, I mostly remember her as a grandma. She was a talented crocheter and used to make new hats and scarves and mitts for us grandkids every year to match our snowsuits. I should get you all a picture of the crocheted blanket she made for me, an impressive rainbow unicorn blanket that honestly still fits my aesthetic although my bed’s gotten bigger! The picture above is of a rainbow one she made for herself. She also made me So Many Crocheted Toys. She had a gift for designing things herself and did things like make me a Muffy the Mouse stuffy from Today’s Special when I was obsessed and they didn’t merchandise every single Canadian kids show. She collected dolls, from mint-in-box Barbies to random garage sale finds that sometimes she had to clean up and make clothes for.
When I was close to finishing high school I joined a concert band that met not too far from where my grandparents lived, and thus started a tradition of visiting every week for hot chocolate and cookies and playing with the dog. My grandparents came to nearly every concert, which was a *lot* of them because the band played free concerts in the park every other week all summer and I was part of the band for more than a decade (up until I moved to the US in my 30s). Thankfully park concerts aren’t formal affairs (see photo above) so you can talk and listen. As I got older, our chats after band practice included more adult topics like investments or politics (a favourite of many folk in Ottawa), or what it’s like to have a miscarriage, or the challenges of living in other countries, or the cold war or what it was like to organize a dinner party in the 50s and 60s. (It sounded SO much more stressful than the regular D&D + dinner nights I hosted with my friends!)
She loved kids and was thrilled to meet her two great-grandchildren (my cousin’s kid and my own), and even though we both live far away, I was able to send my mom pictures and videos to take over to show her so she got to see my part of the family grow in between visits.
I’m lucky to have gotten so many years with her, and there’s probably more stories to tell about her rescue dog that only decided I was ok after we shook hands, and her dolls, and that time she called my mom to tell her she’d been lying about her wedding anniversary date for 50 years. But I don’t think I have it in me to tell those or dig through photos today, so we’ll leave those for another time. She’d had declining health for some years so her passing isn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s still fresh and sad and she’ll be very missed.