My granny passed away a week and a half ago. She was 91, and had had problems with congestive heart failure for years now, been in and out of the hospital several times recently, so it wasn’t a shock or particular horror. She got to pass peacefully at the home she moved into with her husband in 1955, and then raised her kids and grandkids in.
All year, her health declined rapidly. I saw her in July right before I moved to school, and I was shocked at how frail she was.
She’s talked for years about how she’s the next one to go, after her older siblings and best friends have passed away. It was always kind of depressing to me, and I never had a response, but in July, she said, “honey, your granny’s just not doing good.” And I knew that it was probably happening for real this time.
When I first came to school in July, I planned to definitely go home for fall break (the end of this month) to see her, knowing it would potentially be for the last time. As the days went by, I realized fall break would not be in time. So, I planned to go home the weekend of October 4th. She passed away the day before I went. I wasn’t totally shocked, because obviously the progression of events was there. Also, my mom had told me earlier in the day that I might want to bring black clothes home since I was driving 3 hours. And, that day, I had been very bothered by a dream I’d had. I have crazy dreams, and I’m the person that usually remembers their dreams. But that night, I dreamed that there was an assassin trying to get in my granny’s house, and my family was trying to stop him. But he kept getting inside, like by magic or teleportation or something. So, I felt a little weird about it all that day anyway.
I’m torn between being sad I didn’t get to see her one last time and being glad I didn’t have to see her on death’s doorstep. It’s selfish, but I’m partly glad I don’t have to have that mental image with me. I lived next door to her for my first 18 years of life, and I stayed with her a LOT when I was young. So, to me, she’ll always be early-mid 70s, in good health, and a total spit-fire.
My granny was one of the most hilarious people I’ve ever known, and probably ever will know. Not from jokes or being intentionally funny, but from being stubborn and nutty and not having a filter and saying weird things that don’t make sense to younger generations. She had been widowed for over twenty years, and lived alone, so she talked on the phone more than a pre-teen girl (in my generation; I guess kids don’t TALK on the phone anymore- I’m ancient). As a result, she knew everything that was going on in the county, and she always told me stories about people I’d never heard of. But that didn’t matter anyway, because she usually called them “that man up there” so it was a puzzle I never would’ve figured out anyway.
Some of my favorite memories:
She always made fried chicken and gravy for us, and always talked about making it, because, yes, it was the best. I wish I had some right now.
She had these kids books on tape, which I guess wasn’t super uncommon in the 90s, but I loved them so much and never could find them when I got older.
She always had some crazy cats, but she claimed she hated them because they were expensive to feed. There were always kittens, and I loved playing with them when they would let us catch them.
She had a chalkboard at her house, and it kept us busy for hours, playing teacher. My sister taught me to spell my name in cursive at her house.
One time, I found dead termites in a shed in the field behind her house, and I was convinced for a long time that they were demons. And I never told anyone that lol.
She had this massive heating stove in her living room, and one day in the winter I burned my wrist on it a tiny bit. But I wasn’t supposed to get close to it, so I didn’t tell her. Then I went to kindergarten the next day, and my teacher asked me what happened. (If she hadn’t known my family so well, she would’ve probably thought I had been abused.) I said I burnt it on a stove, but I couldn’t explain it because I didn’t really know how to explain a stove that wasn’t for cooking. I still don’t, actually.
For some reason, one day three of my cousins on the other side of the family came to stay with my granny, sister, and me, and we discovered that the closets in her two bedrooms were connected. So we spent a lot time trampling through the closets to go from room to room, but then we got in trouble. I remember that she gave us hotdogs that day, and I thought that was really cool and special.
There are these two big walnut trees in front of her house, and sometimes she would have us help her pick up all the walnuts in her yard. There would be absolutely billions of walnuts.
When I was younger, she would plant a big garden. I learned that potatoes grow in the ground, which is still weird to me. We would pick cucumbers and squash and okra, and then she would cut it up.
We would make muffins together (from the packages), and I would get to help pour the milk in and stir, and it seemed like such a big deal in that 2-step muffin making process. And then those strawberry muffins were the finest cuisine in the world.
As I got older, especially after I graduated high school, she liked to tell me about when she worked in the hosiery mill, and how she made $6 a day.
She loved to tell the story of when my uncle (I think?) was a kid and put his foot into his boot, only for there to be a snake in there. She’d laugh and laugh about it.
During the summer, when she thought the mail was about to come, we’d sit on the porch in her chairs that she’d painted five times over, and the porch top would be so hot from the sun.
It seemed like there was always a wasp getting into her house, which is weird now that I think about it, but she always said “let’s put him in the electric chair,” and she’d go get a pair of pliers. As a 70+ year old woman, she would hunt down a wasp with a pair of pliers and squish it.
She got new carpet when I was younger, and we went back and forth forever, because I wanted a Coke, but she said I’d spill it on the new carpet. I finally wore her down, and I immediately spilled the entire Coke on the carpet. Luckily it was tan/brown carpet, but I’ve never seen her so mad.
About 6 months ago, she told me not to “go try to find men off the tv. They’ll get ya, and they’ll kill ya.”
For Christmas, she would always give my daddy a grapefruit, addressed from Santa. She got the biggest kick out of that, and it honestly was really hilarious. A great Christmas tradition.
My granddaddy died when I was almost 2, so I don’t remember him, but my granny always asked me if I remembered him feeding me cookies. I feel like it was important to her to know that I knew he was part of my life, even just for a short time when he was really sick.
Obviously, none of these are big-honking memories, nothing special. It’s all everyday stuff. Because she was an everyday part of my life, which is even more special than having a couple big moments to remember. She’s the closest person to me to have died, so I’m lucky that she had had a long, good life and was ready to go. Her death has me thinking a lot about life and death and families and sickness. As a medical student, I don’t really think about that a lot. I think about sickness, but I don’t think about dealing with death and loved ones and all of that. It has been kind of interesting to start pondering it all.
I’m happy for the time I got to share with her, and for the hilarious, independent, spunky woman that she was.