“The thing about it is”

by Greg on April 28, 2013

Next to “I love you, darlin'” this was my grandmother’s favorite phrase of all time.

When spoken, you knew it was going to precede one of three things:

1) A long, drawn out story with more tangents than a Geometry textbook;

2) A series of made up facts and historical inaccuracies in order to prove a point; or

3) A life lesson rooted in an anecdote nestled in a parable and wrapped in a moral that held no logic but somehow made complete sense.

“The thing about it is” was woven into every conversation we ever had and often more than once. When heard, I knew it was time to take a seat, pour myself a drink, and kick back to enjoy another one of her famous filibusters.

Like a tree, her stories would start with a single purpose and then splinter off into different limbs, branches, and twigs comprised of unfinished sidebars and asides that had absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand. The stories were long, the stories were often, and the stories were often retold over and over and over again with the same fervor and well-timed crescendos.

Tonight I realize that I’m going to miss them terribly.

This morning, around 4am, my grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep. Which means that for the last 21 hours, she’s been telling stories to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates and creating a never-before-seen backlog of souls waiting to get in.

As many of you may remember, I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel with her from New York to Texas last year when we made the move to bring her closer to family so she could have in-home care. Even though she had suffered a heart attack and a series of strokes, she still had every bit of her wits about her and every bit of that spark that made her unique.

My grandmother was one of the more special people in my life and we had a bond that few are ever fortunate enough to have. Her love, unconditional. Her wit, unmatched. Her knowledge, unbridled.

Ever since I was a wee little baby, she’s been there to teach me, guide me, and nurture me.

She would drive for hours just to give me the opportunity to see a train cut through town so we could see what color caboose was trailing it.

She gave me 12 presents, one per day leading up to Christmas just like the song, and it was a tradition I looked forward to every year.

She gave me my first and many subsequent tastes of booze as an infant because I (and I quote) “seemed to love the bourbon” when I was fussy.

She taught me how and where to find the biggest juiciest worms, how to bait a hook, how to cast, and how to reel ’em in.

She taught me the right way to scale a fish, the right way to filet it, and even shared her Top Secret “Tasties” recipe for freshwater Perch. A recipe that no one else was privy to. Even though it consisted of nothing more than crushed Saltine crackers and whisked eggs, I felt like the luckiest kid on earth when she called me over and whispered it into my ear as we stood in the cabin’s kitchen.

She taught me how to recognize bird calls. “Hear that? That’s a red-bellied woodpecker. Hear that? That’s a sand-breasted chickadee…no…wait…make that a WHITE-breasted chickadee.” While I highly doubt her accuracy, it’s a magical moment for a nine-year old when you think your grandmother is able to converse with waterfowl. Fortunately for them, she couldn’t, or we would have faced an early migration of historical proportions.

She taught me at the age of ten that you can never really trust anyone, especially family, when it comes to a game of Scrabble. When she laid down “FRITZEL” for a zillion points I thought it looked funky. When I said I wanted to challenge its validity, she replied with a gasp, “You don’t trust your grandmother? Darlin’, that’s a word. You can challenge it if you want, but remember, I get 50 bonus points and you lose your turn once you see that it’s in the dictionary.” When the game was finished, I thumbed through the dictionary and remarked that the word didn’t exist after all. Her life lesson? “Well, the thing about it is, you need to be careful. Sometimes the strategy is to get away with one now and then.”

She taught me the importance of taking your time, of not being in such a rush, and to not take life too seriously. She encouraged me to stop and smell the roses, a moral echoed in the book she introduced to me at a young age entitled, “Ferdinand.”

She taught me that no one can whip up Chicken ‘n Dumplings like a grandmother. She taught me the dangers of trying to master her Leg of Lamb recipe, a lesson that ended with me being ravaged with acute food poisoning. And she taught me that anything prepared by a grandmother’s hand will taste better and warm the soul faster than anything prepared by anyone else.

The lessons go on and on but I think one of the gifts I treasure most is that she instilled all of her loving traits in her own children. As such, the light carried by my grandmother has been and will continue to be carried by my own mother. I see my grandmother’s influence within her…from the unconditional love and patience to the unwavering words of encouragement and focus on family. I see my grandmother in the way my mother interacts with her own grandchildren and how much they fawn over her when she’s near. Thanks to this, she’ll never truly be gone.

My children are heartbroken over the loss because Grams, a.k.a Gram Cracker, a.k.a. Gramma-lamma-ding-dong, a.k.a. Grambunctious, meant the world to them. I’m just so thankful that they too had the opportunity to create lasting memories with her as well. I don’t think she ever realized just how many lives she touched and enriched, and I don’t think she’d have believed it even if we told her, but I suppose that’s part of her charm.

It comforts me to know that my children will experience the same soul-enriching relationship with their grandmother as I had with mine. All the memories, all the love, all the guidance. And while she may not be capable of showing them how to bait a hook with a big fat juicy worm, she’s a natural at carrying forth my grandmother’s filibuster torch.

And the thing about it is?

They’re gonna love every single word.

Just as I did.

____________________________________

{ 26 comments }

Tasha April 28, 2013 at 1:47 am

Wonderful words. Grandmothers are amazing people, and I miss mine every day. I am so grateful to have known my grandmother, and regret not ever having told her so. Your words were eloquent. I am sorry for your family’s loss.

cat April 28, 2013 at 6:15 am

got me cryin’ first thing in the morning. i never new my grandmothers one died very young and the other was quite upper class british, didn’t speak to children till they were 16, age i was when she died. yours sounds like a hoot and a half ty for sharing.

Paula @ Frosted Fingers April 28, 2013 at 7:27 am

Sorry for your loss, she sounds like a wonderful person. She sounds like how my mom would have been as a Grandma.

Dee April 28, 2013 at 9:05 am

Beautiful words for what must have been a beautiful lady. I didn’t know either of my grandmothers but I’d like to think they’d be her.

Lorie Shewbridge April 28, 2013 at 9:15 am

What a beautiful post. I would loved to have met your grandmother, she sounds like such an awesome woman. I am glad you have such wonderful memories of her to help you through this rough time.
Please know my love and sympathy is with you and your family.

Cheryl April 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grandmother sounds as if she were related to mine! Beautiful post for someone I’m sure was equally beautiful as your words. <3

Laura (Got Chocolate) April 28, 2013 at 9:40 am

“Grams, a.k.a Gram Cracker, a.k.a. Gramma-lamma-ding-dong”

HAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

😀

Virginia @thatbaldchick April 28, 2013 at 9:44 am

So sorry for your loss. (hugs) to you and your family!

Michelle C April 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

I am sorry for your loss. Grandmothers can be the most special people you will ever have in your life. My favorite grandmother passed away 7 months after I was able to give her her first great grandchild, something that gave her no end of joy and for which I am very greatful. I miss her every day and all my cousins and I remember her every year at her birthday.

Mrs. TellingDad April 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

I thought for sure, “Like a chicken on a Junebug” would have made it into the post. 🙂

Cindy Schmidt April 28, 2013 at 10:01 am

Greg,
What a nice post as a tribute to your Grandmother. I am so sorry for your loss. I had the pleasure a meeting her several times when we lived in New York. My thoughts are with your family.
Cindy Schmidt

meg April 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

Beautiful commentary on such a wonderful & influential woman. Never really got to know my grandparents well. I do have 1 surviving grandmother.. but she lives far & I’ve never gotten to know her that well. I do know that she has always been a great cook & quite stubborn. Must be about 90 now.. and still ornery, from what I’m told.

Raw Once More April 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful blessing to have had such an influence in your life, and to recognise how far her inspiration has reached. I never knew my grandmothers, one dies when I was young, the other disowned my mum when she was young. Yours sounds like my kinda lady!

Candace April 28, 2013 at 10:23 am

That was beautiful Greg, I’m sorry for your loss, she sounds amazing 🙂

Dr Brassy April 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I am still here, still following your every word and loving sharing in your families joys and woes.

I rarely post, but I am here.

Big hugs to you, Big Guy….To me, you will always be a BLOGSTAR!

Dr Brassy

Eileen April 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Greg, You sure have had your share and more of family problems. Unlike a conveyor belt, evenly spaced, life just seems to bunch up at times. How wonderful you have these precious memories to lesson your loss. Good genes, you will carry on her legacy with your own family. I envy what you had, I didn’t, but am making sure I am doing all I can with my own grand kids, so they one day can take joy in the good times we shared. Prayers and good thoughts to you and your entire family.

Another Lurker April 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

So much hug for you and your family…

Sylv April 29, 2013 at 5:47 am

I too am sorry for your loss.

Maggie Pinque April 29, 2013 at 7:57 am

What a grand and glorious tribute to your Grandmother. Long may she reign in your hearts. xo

valmg @ Mom Knows It All April 29, 2013 at 8:43 am

Greg, I am sorry to hear about your Grandma. I was very close with my Grandma as well. This is a beautiful tribute to her and the relationship you shared with her.

Alanna S April 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I’m sorry for your loss.
What a touching tribute.

Jann April 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

So sorry for your loss – grandmothers are the very best.

Mishka April 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

So sorry for your loss. What a fantastic tribute to what sounds like quite a woman. I feel like I know her a bit from that, thank you! I would love to write something so heartfelt in my future. You have inspired me.

Sarah H April 30, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I am sorry for your loss, grandma’s are amazing people. I still dream of my grandma as if she are right in the room with me and I can touch her and it’s been 12 years since she passed. Cleaning and cooking smells trigger my greatest memories of her. It is wonderful that you have such heartfelt memories of her. Peace.

Nancy B May 1, 2013 at 10:25 am

My sincerest condolences to you and your family. Your grandmother lives on in your memories. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Jen-Eighty MPH Mom May 11, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Oh what a sweet post. I just sat here and smiled while reading it, and could picture your grandmother perfectly. She sure does sound special, and I know she will be dearly missed. I’ll bet you brought her as much joy as she brought you…

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