My grandmother Mary passed away several weeks ago. I wrote this the week of her funeral. I thought about reading it then, but now I want to honor her by sharing it with all of you.
Hello everyone. My name is Mary. I am my grandmother’s namesake.
I think I will start off with a story. I remember one day when I was about nine, my mother told me she was going to the mall with Gramma. I perked up and asked if I could come too. And my mother looked at me seriously and said, “Ok. But if you come, you can’t complain about being tired.” I assured her that I wouldn’t complain. I remember thinking “it’s just shopping with Gramma. How tiring could that be?” Oh my goodness. We covered every square inch of that mall. My feet had never hurt so much in my entire young life. Apparently, Gramma was a power shopper. I had no idea. That day, Gramma bought me a watch with Minnie Mouse on it. I liked it very much, but I never asked to go shopping with her again.
I have to be honest. Growing up, I didn’t feel like I had much in common with Gramma at all. She was always dressed impeccably, with her hair and make up done. She put a lot of emphasis on poise and being lady-like. Every Christmas I received a box from Gramma that I hoped did not contain clothes. Every year I opened a box containing a skirt, or a blouse, or a skirt with a matching blouse. Lots of ruffles and pleats. I was more of a rough and tumble kind of kid. I hated ruffles. I hated pleats. I guess having a name in common has little bearing on personality.
I got to know my grandmother best about six years ago. My husband and I had moved into a new place and my grandparents happened to be the closest relatives we could easily visit. Shortly after that, my husband was deployed overseas, and I was desperate for family. I spent more time with my grandmother during those months than I ever had before. I talked to her for hours. I realized how funny she was, how strong she was, how smart she was.
One day, I drove up to introduce Gramma to my new puppy. Now my family is made up of dog-people. Gramma had a little poodle named Pearl. Mom had a fluffy collie named Winnie. And I had just joined the club with a little bichon puppy I named Louie. My mother was visiting too and she and Gramma decided to drop their dogs off at the groomer. I brought Louie along thinking we could just kill half an hour in Petsmart and be done with it. Well, no. The dogs were going to take three hours and I still had little Louie with me.
So Gramma announces we are going to the mall. And I point out, “well, Gramma, we can’t go to the mall. We have Louie. He can’t go in the mall and it’s too hot to leave him in the car.” Gramma continued on like this was no problem at all and my mother just told me, “Carry the puppy and walk behind your grandmother. Don’t worry. Nobody will say anything.”
So we walked into the mall. I followed my grandmother around dutifully, like her personal assistant. All the while, I had my little puppy in my arms. Every clerk in the mall was perfectly polite and cordial. They all smiled at Gramma and were perfectly polite. No one mentioned the puppy. Then my mother told me, “they think you are carrying your grandmother’s dog.” It was then I understood. My grandmother wasn’t just poised and lady-like. She was fierce. She dared the clerks to correct her and none of them did.
I carried Louie through the mall, Target, and a craft store that afternoon and no one said a thing. No one would cross her.
I know now that I had more in common with my grandmother than I ever realized. I am thankful for the few years that I had to really get to know her and I am sad that those years were so short. It seemed like I found her only to lose her. Now I can only strive to be like her.