My husband’s grandmother died yesterday. It’s sad because we loved her and we’ll miss her, but she was 89 years old and in poor health, and she is probably happier now. We told the older kids last night, and they cried some–Princess Zurg more because, well, she’s a crier. We haven’t told the younger kids because we’re not sure how that conversation ought to go. Elvis knows who Great-Grandma is, but we’re not sure he knows what it means to die. Girlfriend, on the other hand, understands dying as well as your average almost-five-year-old, but we’re not sure she remembers Great-Grandma, since the last time she saw her, GF was three, and the last time before that, she had just turned two. We have pictures, of course. I guess the only thing that complicates the issue is that we are way more emotionally invested in the conversation than either of them will be. I am certainly overthinking it, so I am going to back off on the thinking for now.
In some ways I feel closer to my husband’s grandmother than I do to my own grandmother. When I was growing up, we saw my dad’s parents something like annually, since we visited their farm in Idaho every summer. For a time we lived in the same area as my mother’s mother (my mother’s father died before I was born), so we saw her a little more often, but then we moved to California and we saw less of everybody. In-laws are different, though. Half of what I feel about my grandmother-in-law is based on the fact that she was a such a big part of my husband’s life when he was growing up. His mother was widowed at a young age, and it was just her and three little boys, so the grandparents were needed more–know what I mean? So I know a lot of stories about SD’s grandma from before the time I met her.
I’ve also had a lot more conversations with his grandma than I’ve had with my own grandparents. I feel like I ought to be ashamed of myself. Well, believe me, I have some stories about my grandparents. My husband’s family is different than mine, though. The way they interact with each other is very different. I think they are just better conversationalists, and that’s okay.
Since my mother died, I have all this guilt about my failure to record our family history. There weren’t enough pictures of my mother. Not enough stories were written down. Whenever I was with SD’s grandmother and she started telling a story, I’d think, “She’s not going to be around forever. If I had a video camera, I’d turn it on right now and get all this for posterity.” Of course, if I’d actually had a video camera and turned it on, she probably would have gotten self-conscious and stopped talking. I knew that at the time, so I just tried really hard to remember what she was saying, but of course I’ve forgotten most of it.
One story I remember because she told it a million times (give or take) was that she majored in music in high school, but she only had something like thirteen piano lessons as a child. When she practiced, she just liked to play through everything as fast as she could, and her mother told her if she didn’t slow down and play it the way her teacher told her to, she wasn’t going to let her take lessons anymore. But Grandma just went on doing like she always did, and her mother finally walked over to the piano, took away the lesson book, and that was the end of Grandma’s piano lessons. I always thought that was sad, but then, I am paying $135 a month for piano lessons for two kids who don’t even want them, so maybe I really just feel like a schmuck.
Another story she liked to tell was how when she worked as a teller at a bank, there was a customer with the name of Liffshits or Lippshits, or something like that. (She kidded you not.) She also liked to tell the story of how she once said the word “pervert” in front of SD and his brothers, and the boys all stomped their feet and laughed themselves silly because Grandma said “pervert.” She also liked to tell the story of how SD’s brother nursed until he was three and he told everyone that his mother’s breasts gave chocolate milk. That’s more a story about SD’s brother than about Grandma, but Grandma sure loved telling it.
There’s more in the recesses of my memory, probably, and you should probably be grateful that I can’t bring it all to the surface right now. Anyway, life goes on. I have a million loads of laundry to do, and GF wants me to read her a book, so there it is. Enjoy your respective weekends, gentle readers.