Thursday, February 16, 2012

My grandma Hazel

My maternal grandma taught me a great deal of things that I'd taken for granted until well into adulthood. 

A friend of mine was set to fly to Chicago for a job interview the Tuesday after MLK Jr. Day.  She needed a new suit to disguise her growing pregnancy, and had spent the weekend searching for one.  When she finally found it, the pants were too long.  Good luck finding a tailor who is willing to do the work on the Monday of a 3-day weekend.  She racked her head to think of people she knew who would have the skills needed to hem the pants.

My name was the only one that came to mind.  She and her husband brought us dinner, after which I didn't hem her pants: I taught her how to hem them.  While we worked, I passed along the tips my grandmother had taught me: always have a hot iron at hand when you sew; keep a small sewing kit with various colors of thread available for hemming and repairs; keep the heel height in mind as you hem, catch as little of the fabric with the needle as possible in order to achieve invisible stitches.

My friend got the job and will move to Chicago in April with her husband and their new son.

It had never occured to me that not everyone's grandma made sure they had these types of skills.  Besides how to sew, my grandma taught me a great deal of things when I was a child and young woman.  She and my grandfather were always generous with their time and money, never holding back when help was needed.  She had a lot of patience with me, a very untidy and messy child, and yet taught me how to organize my clothing closet: by clothing type then by color.  A child of the Depression, she'd be horrified by all the purging I've done recently.  Her own house was always immaculate and my own mom dreaded the white-glove visits when I was a kid.

She was an avid gardener well into her 80s, and knew the names of flowers, plants, and birds that could be found in her yard.  My grandpa always had a huge vegetable garden and she took care of the flower beds.  Grandma pickled the cukes that Grandpa grew.

When my brother, cousin, and I were young, my grandparents often took us camping, teaching us how to cook on a campstove, how to fish for pogies, how to dig for clams, and what to do when the raccoons ate all of our clams when we were away from our campsite.  They made sure that all three of us knew how to swim.

I took Kaelen to visit her earlier this week.  She'd had a rough weekend but I knew she was feeling better because she complained profusely: I kissed Kaelen too much; I held Kaelen too much; I was going to spoil Kaelen; Kaelen should have a hat on (this, after she complained that her room was too hot); and I didn't hold Kaelen right.  The next day she told my mom that Kaelen was really cute, that he was going to be funny with a wonderful sense of humor, and that he had such a nice personality.  That's about as high praise as she gives.

Grandma turned 94 on New Year's Day. Her health has been declining slowly for a while but she's now slipping away at a rapid pace. The family doesn't expect that she'll last through the weekend.

This is my grandmother with Kaelen and me on Christmas Eve.  He was just 4 days old and she was a week from her 94th birthday.  It was very important to me that she meet him, and that she get to see me as a mother.  I'm so grateful that she did; I wouldn't be the person I am today without her influence.

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