I’ve been thinking about grandmothers a lot this week.
First of all, my mother-in-law has been here for the last few days. She says she missed Katie and Davis, but I strongly suspect that after reading my last blog post, she wanted to come make sure her son and grandchildren were OK, since I have become a notorious streaker. All kidding aside, she is the best mother-in-law anyone could imagine. She’s enjoyed spending time with the kids, but I’ve also had a great time with her. We’ve played tennis, eaten really good chicken salad, and watched a chick-flick, and I’m happy she’s my friend in addition to being my husband’s mother.
My kids are blessed with two loving, fabulous grandmothers. Both Mrs. JoAnne and my Mom mean the world to my children, and I am fortunate that they are both huge parts of Davis and Katie’s lives. It’s important to have someone who bends the bedtime rules, looks the other way while you sneak an extra cookie, and loves you in that special way that only grandmothers can do. When my children are old enough to date and marry (at 40!), I look forward to stepping into that role. I will be a fantastic grandmother, God willing.
I’ve also thought a lot about my own grandmother. Growing up, she was always called “Grandmother”. No funny nicknames for her – just straight and to the point. However, when Katie was born, we were faced with a dilemma. She wasn’t my kids’ grandmother, and that word is a mouthful anyway for someone learning to talk. We all agreed that the best solution was simply to call her by her first name, Dott.
She died this past March after being sick for a while. I got to spend some time with her the week before she died, and although both of us knew we were saying goodbye, we enjoyed our visit. She couldn’t talk or move, but her eyes answered my questions. I told her about Katie and Davis, about Knoxville, our plans for the summer, and funny things that I knew she would enjoy. Her eyes never left mine, and she held on to my hand as hard as she could with the little bit of strength she had left. We always had a bond, she and I. Walking out of her room at the nursing home that day, knowing we had just said goodbye forever, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
Her estate was settled last week, and in her usual generous style, she left my sister and me a small inheritance. She always told me that it wasn’t much, but she wanted us to have it to do something to “remember her by”. It may sound trite and silly to everyone else, but I bought a camera with the money. She loved pictures of the kids more than anything, and any visitor to her house was immediately given the latest photo album and instructed to believe that her great-grandchildren were the smartest, most talented, gorgeous children ever created. I am quite sure no one dared to argue with her.
Even after her mind and body began to go, she would look at those pictures and hold them. Even when she couldn’t remember who the children were, she would comment on how beautiful they were. She would always tell me, “I have never taken a picture in my life, but I love to look at them.” I still remember that. Still, I have second-guessed myself, wondering if a camera purchase with Grandmother’s gift was an appropriate way to honor her.
Today was the first day of the photography course I am taking. As usual, I was running late, my mind in a thousand different places. As I pulled into my parking space, I reached into my purse to put my sunglasses away and my hand closed around an envelope. It was the money envelope that my uncle had used to send Dott’s gift. I had looked at the front of it when I had taken it out of the outer envelope, but I turned it over for the first time there, sitting in my car outside Wolf Camera. My grandfather has been gone for five years now, but there in his handwriting, was “Love you, George + Dott”.
My heart seemed to stop. I stared at his handwriting, so familiar to me, and unforgotten after years have passed. I knew then that Dott would have been pleased with my decision to remember her by capturing picnics, birthdays, Christmases, first days of school, family get-togethers at the lake, and the just plain ordinary, run-of-the-mill days that make up all of our lives. She would like that, and although she never took a picture herself, it’s a small way I can honor her. Every time the shutter closes and the faces of the family that she loved so much are captured, I’ll thank her for being such a huge and cherished part of my life.
I love you, too, Dott. And I miss you every single day.