When I was…11? My mom announced she was getting married to the man she had been dating. That’s an awkward sort of age no matter what, but it’s particularly awkward to be thrust into a new family. To their credit, they (mostly) accepted me without question. The biggest reason for that, I am – and will always remain – convinced, was due to the matriarch of the family. Grandma Rose had one of the biggest hearts that the 11-year-old me had ever met. At the same time, she was one of the strongest women I’ve met to this day. Grandpa may have believed he ran the show (though I’m pretty sure he knew in his heart it wasn’t so), but Grandma was the iron will that held everything together.
Every Christmas and Easter, we walked to their place for big dinners and the whole family gathered together. My favorite things she made were these mincemeat pillow cookies – I’ve yet to figure out how to replicate them, and I will always regret not asking for her recipe earlier. Grandma always did all the cooking, and made it seem so easy. A full ham, multiple salads and sides and desserts, and drinks enough for everyone. I’m pretty sure she spent a couple of days cooking to prepare, though I was young enough that I never paid a lot of attention.
She was a farm wife, through and through, and very little got her flustered. Because we lived so close (2 bogs away. Yep – bogs. Cranberry farm.), we spent a lot of time over there for various reasons. There were a couple of summers, after I had been introduced to lemon cucumbers, that I would sneak over and grab a couple fresh and sneak back. Grandma never said anything, but I’m sure she knew. She rarely got angry, but when she decided she had had enough of whatever antics I was getting up to, I *knew* not to push any further. She had an affinity for hummingbirds, which I share to this day.
As is the case, I grew up and left home. I joined the Coast Guard, went to boot camp, and spent my first Christmas away from home in sunny Florida. One day, I got a box in the mail – and it was a lovingly packaged shoe box *loaded* with those mincemeat cookies I loved so much. And for every Christmas, for so many years, she sent a box to every location I was stationed – even Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay).
In time, Grandpa had a series of strokes. Grandma was ADAMANT that he was not to be put in a home, that she would help take care of him at home. And that was that. She did for quite a while, and then a caregiver was hired to help. It aged her, taking care of Grandpa for so many years. But she *refused* to bend – Grandpa would be taken care of in his home. Once he passed, she never really recovered from the toll it took on her, and she ended up ill as well. But, true to that iron core, she just hung on – defying everyone to tell her when it was her time.
Two days ago, on the 25th of January, Grandma Rose finally decided she was ready. Dad says she was at peace, and I can only imagine she knew she was ready to go and see her beloved Bill once again. But in a lovely touch that may mean nothing to some, but means everything to me – I had a special email today. I follow Bella the hummingbird on the Explore Live Cams (https://explore.org/livecams/hummingbirds/bella-hummingbird-nest), and her first egg hatched yesterday – the same day I heard about Grandma’s passing. Grandma would be pleased, I think, to know that this little life was born just as hers was ending, and it seems a fitting way to encapsulate all that I knew and loved about the woman I will forever know as Grandma Rose.