Today I'm going to tell you about my favorite person to ever live.
I'm tearing up a bit as I write this, just thinking about what a truly righteous and inspiring woman my maternal grandma was for so many. Words really can't do justice to convey how hilarious, selfless, and industrious this free-thinking, comical, yet compassionate woman was. But I'm going to do my best here.
The daughter of a railroad worker, she grew up during The Great Depression with 4 siblings surrounding her on both sides by age. Her family was always on the move from one town to the next, as her dad commanded the railways by day and studied law by night. He was evidently a brilliant but temperamental man who, sadly, developed Multiple Sclerosis and became bed-bound at the age of 40, whereupon his wife had to pick up the slack and be the mom and the dad for the family of 5 kids. My grandma learned at an early age to get by with very little, to appreciate the good things in life, and to work hard. These are values she imparted on those she knew and we are all better for it. She would do things the right way- even if there were shortcuts available, which seems to be a method no longer exercised by most.
She moved to Duluth as a young woman, but had bigger plans of running away to California (I assume for a man- knowing what I know about her affinity for strapping lads.) Ticket in hand and westward-bound with stars in her eyes, she was at the railway station, when her older sister intervened and pulled her off the train, so on the frigid shores of Lake Superior is where she stayed, always wondering what direction her life would have taken, had she gone. She accepted her lot and got a job at the bank, where she befriended a young, female co-worker and the two would commiserate on the clock about leaving someday. At one point, my grandma saw this woman writing a letter and inquired who it was for. She replied by saying it was to her brother, who was off fighting in WWII. My grandma asked her to tell him hi. To think that one word would start a long distance romance of enormous proportions was not top of mind for my grandma when she made that simple request, but that is exactly what happened.
The soldier wrote back and the two corresponded with fervid love letters back and forth over the next 9 months or so. When he finally returned, having frozen his feet while manning a machine gun on the front-lines, they met face to face and it was all over. Theirs was a love story that anyone would aspire to achieve. They maintained an unfaltering devotion to one another for 75 years. They were the team of 2 who built their house, raised their kids, garnered respect from the community, and were the cornerstone of our family. She was by his side when he passed away and his final words to her were the three that everyone wants to hear, "I love you."
Once I came along (her first granddaughter) my grandma and I would spend countless hours together. To put it simply, she "got" me. Whether I was being teased at school for my homemade clothes, entering into a doomed relationship as a young woman, or any other wide array of scenarios which required sage wisdom, she's who I would go to first. The hours we spent cackling on the phone, the miles we covered behind the dash of a car with my mom on one of our many 3-generation trips, and the laughs shared while saddled up next to each other watching "Golden Girls" are all memories I will cherish until I'm gone. She had a way of brightening every situation no matter how dire.
I lived with her and my grandpa after I graduated high school, which was amazing to have a pair of the best role models I could imagine, helping me navigate the torrential waters of a 2-year community college career. We would eat dinner together every night while listening to gramps tell stories from the war or granny recounting tales from her colorful childhood. Grandma was an artist and we would spend afternoons painting landscapes in her basement as Bob Ross gently orated in the background. These were some of my favorite bonding moments with her. She could make anyone laugh with her dirty sense of humor and her quick wit. I can still picture she and my mom traipsing down the hallway of my apartment building one of the times they'd come for a visit. Grandma was actually kicking her whiskey bottle (a widow-maker of McMasters) down the hallway and as it rolled towards me she cackled, "I sure as hell don't want to leave home without this!" Indeed.
Grandma always had a compliment to give, a kind sentiment to impart, and a smile to bestow. Everyone who met her loved her. There is a void that she once filled that is now empty for many. So, this Thanksgiving, as you're sitting down to eat a meal, or play a card game, or watch a movie- with whoever you usually spend your holidays in the company of, show your appreciation. Tell them a story or a dirty joke. Express something you like about them... or just tell them you love them. I'd give anything in the world to hear my grandma say those words to me one more time.