Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Grandma

It would happen at a church ladies' party.

My grandmother, who is 90 and a half, changed churches two months ago after her old church closed due to lack of attendance. She decided which church she would attend - one that the majority of her friends would be going to - and started going, without missing a single Sunday.

Today, she was at one of their houses for a Christmas lunch after church, and put her hand out on a chair to steady herself as she crossed the room. The chair, as it turned out, was none too steady itself, resting on the edge of the carpet and a wooden floor. It slipped out from underneath her and she fell down, landing on her hip, unable to move.

They called the ambulance, called my parents. I got a call to say she was en route to the hospital. I was home with my influenza-ridden, feverish son. There was a lot of snow between me and the hospital so I stayed here and did laundry, prayed, made supper, imagined the worst, shoveled the driveway three times and waited.

About six years ago, I sent her a bouquet of flowers because I wanted to give her flowers while she was still living, while she could smell the roses. She was somewhat creeped out and told me she had lots of living left to do, but thanks for the lovely bouquet. I want to send her flowers tonight but she's stuck on a spinal board in emergency, drugged up on morphine.

I've been thinking lately about the passage of time, how my kids are big kids at Christmas, how things just change - sometimes for the better and sometimes not. When my oldest turned one, I remember thinking that I had savoured his first year of life like nothing else, and even still, it was over. This past summer, I watched a documentary about the street artist Banksy that also told about an obsessive videographer whose mother had died while he was at school, when he had no idea she was even very ill. For the rest of his life, he had tried to catalogue every moment, taking endless video of mundane and important moments. He never watched the videos again, but he could.

My grandma looked after me for much of the first year of my life, while my mom worked. We both have always enjoyed cooking and people. We share a faith. She calls me dear. I would call her homely, but you would probably misunderstand and assume I meant ugly, when I mean radiantly beautiful in the same kind of way Mother Teresa was beautiful. The food she makes is delicious - paper-thin oatmeal cookies spread with cold date paste, bean soups, carrot cake. Simple foods well made. I can see her shadow side too, but I've always been one of her favourites and she is certainly mine.

This past year, I had a chance to honour her by throwing her a big birthday bash. It was a great success and she loved every minute of it. I've also spent the fall writing a book that rehearses my grief for a time when she is gone: one of my characters recovers from the death of her beloved grandmother and makes it through on the other side. But first she goes through what she calls "my hard year." The first year after someone dies or something bad happens is very hard because you can say, this time last year, we...

She told me this fall, at a time when her medicine for various ailments was out of whack and she felt horrible, that she still had tremendous quality of life and lots of living to do. Today, I clung to that. Dave was going out to do errands and I asked him if he would stop at Canadian Tire to pick up something my grandma mentioned recently she needed, a new mailbox. It's sitting on our kitchen counter now, waiting for her to come home to get my love letters.


  1. My next door neignbour is 88. She took to the new computer I helped her buy and set up. She's even on Facebook. Her kids, grand kids, great grand kids and great nephews and nieces love it that she is on Facebook. Think about getting her a computer and on Facebook too.

  2. Eric - She flat out refuses to consider using a computer. Her concession to technology is a fax machine.

  3. Lots of hugs. I understand.
    This year the Gorrie family will once more attend the semi-annual family Christmas weekend at the Briars. It is a tradition begun by my grandparents...30 years ago? a gift from them to us. I am anticipating moments of sadness this year when we feel the absence of Grandma. The family has chosen to honour the memory of my grandparents by using the last of the proceeds from her estate in this way.

  4. Wonderfully written. You've experienced her beautifully...fully! Thanks for sharing this Susan. :)