Bittersweet

Today is a bittersweet day… it is the day my grandma would have turned 100 years old. She almost made it, too… My grandma passed away a month shy of her 97th birthday. I remember always joking that she would be on Willard Scott’s segment of the Today show, her smiling face on a jar of Smucker’s.

Well, it is not exactly Smucker’s, but I thought I would post a photo of my grandma on my blog. I don’t have any digital photos of her, so this is scanned.

My grandma

My grandma

I’m not sure who took this photo (I’m guessing my Aunt Linda), but I just love it. I love it because it shows my grandma in a canoe at their cabin on the pond. I love that my grandma is smiling. I love that my grandma (probably in her 60s or 70s at the time) is out being active, having a good time in nature. I love the colors in this photo. I love that you can see her reflection in the water. I aspire to take photos like this one. Not because of it’s composition or any technical aspects, but because in one image, it tells such a story about a person. It is a visual synopsis of who my grandma was, without saying a single word.

I wish that I could say I knew my grandma well, but I didn’t. Sadly, I never spent much time with her. In the first part of my life, it was a matter of geography – we lived on the west coast and she lived on the east coast. I the later part of my life, it was more of a matter of demographics – I was a self-absorbed genXer, more focused on my education and career than on family. I regret that.

A few years ago, my grandma was in the hospital, her heart was failing, Ninety six years is a long time to work without a break. And after some 4 billion beats, her heart was just worn out. I booked a flight, my sister met me at the airport and we went to the hospital to visit. I was 6 months pregnant with Chloe at the time. My grandma patted my belly and said hi to her newest great grandchild.

She died that day.

To say that was a sad day would be a gross understatement. But I don’t choose to look at it that way. Because when my grandma died, she was surrounded by two of her children, four of her grandchildren and one great grandchild. We held her hands as she passed and let her know that she was loved. For her memorial, friends and family gathered at my grandma’s senior living facility, played her favorite game and ate her favorite dessert. I think she would have had a wonderful time. And I think that is just the way she would have wanted it.

I am not one who is big on tradition or who likes to dwell in the past. But when I found out that I was pregnant with my second girl, I thought it would be nice to honor my grandma, in a subtle way. I named my daughter Ella, which was my grandma’s middle name. And hanging in Ella’s room is a doily that my grandma crocheted. It is right by her door, and is a little symbol to remind us of the importance of family. I think that my grandma would like that.

On this day, I would like to say Happy Birthday to you, grandma! I hope that you and grandpa are celebrating on this day, and every day.

 

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