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In memory of my grandmother

My family is reeling after the rather unexpected death of my grandmother yesterday. Surgery that was meant to add years to her life went wrong, and she died in the hospital having not been able to fully recover.

Her name was Ruby, and I feel like I owe much of who I am to her. What I will always remember about her is her steadfast determination. If she had her mind set on something, she just wouldn’t take no for an answer. She had a can-do spirit and set about learning to do whatever needed to be done, including fixing her own plumbing leaks in her basement last year. She always found ways to make the most of what she had, whether it was a little or a lot. She had an irreverent sense of humor and her grandkids got a kick out of her name-calling while we played favorite card games, like Pinochle.

One of the happy memories of my grandmother involves a big grocery shopping trip. There was a Buy One Get One Free sale and she brought me along to help load up shopping carts with deals. I can’t remember how old I was. When we returned to her house, she divvied up the items to give to my mom and my aunt for our families. For some reason that memory stuck with me, and I knew when it was time to quit my job to stay home with my son, that I could spend less on groceries if I tried. My grandma knew that I have been using coupons and she wanted to learn how to do even better herself. Last month she told me about a coupon class that she wanted to attend together. We never did go, but it made me happy that she wanted to.

When I was 20 and preparing to head to England for a year-long study abroad program, I was distraught because neither I nor my parents could afford a nice luggage set like I hoped for. My dad had found some hideous (sorry, Dad) vinyl suitcases from the 60′s for free by the side of the road and seriously expected me to use them. My grandma and grandpa swept in and purchased three matching rolling suitcases for me with some extra money they had. I still use them.

It is particularly difficult at this time of year. Our enormous extended family had a tradition of packing into her tiny house each Christmas eve, where she served up enough food to feed an army: roasts, meatballs and sausage in homemade marinara sauce, scalloped potatoes, baked beans and more. She always made roast pork for me because I told her once that it was my favorite. It was a lot of work for her to do all this with her failing health, but it was something she looked forward to. Last Christmas Eve at her house was one of the last times I saw my Uncle Brian happy and (seemingly) healthy; we lost him to cancer at the age of 53 in September.

I’m going through a weird mix of emotions right now. You wonder if you took too much for granted, if you should have tried harder to spend more time. But I do know that my grandma didn’t believe in slowing down, and she kept as busy as she could right up until the end. I hope she knew how much she was loved.

Grandma meeting my son in the hospital in 2008.

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