Simply put, my grandmother was a beautiful person.
I spoke a little bit in my previous post about Grandpa how I didn’t really get to know him as a person. I was relatively young when he passed away and we didn’t have a lot of deep conversations. When I was living in Indiana a few years ago, I was determined not to make the same mistake with Grandma.
Grandma and I would sit at her kitchen table and she allowed me to interview about everything. Her childhood, her life as a young mother, her parents, her siblings, her children. When I was talking with Grandma I lost all track of time.
One of my favorite topics of discussion was asking her about growing up in the early part of the 20th century: what she did for fun, how she would listen to the radio, even seeing her first automobile. I also enjoyed talking with her about Dad (whose name is also Ed) and my aunts and uncles.
“What kind of kid was my Dad?”
“Oh, he was always a nice boy. He was always so good.”
Like clockwork Uncle John would call out from the next room, “You always loved Eddie the most, Mama! You should admit I’m your number one son!”
Grandma would laugh and shake her head and in her accented voice say, “Yea, but he doesn’t shout in the house!”
John would then come into the kitchen where we sat, a big smile on his face, and give her a huge hug and say, “I love you, Mama.” Grandma would pat him on the arm and tell him she loved him, too.
A couple of times I told her I wanted to record our conversations on video. She had been sick for quite a while and would always just laugh and say, “Oh Eddie, you don’t want to film me, I look horrible.” The funny thing is, even in the last years of her life, she remained vibrant and beautiful.
That in itself was a testament to how strong she was. She had a rough life for a while and in many respects took care of thirteen kids on her own. When she told me about some of the things she faced I was surprised, mostly because she’s always been so kind, friendly, warm, and caring. If you knew half the things she told me, you’d see that she would have every reason and excuse to be cold and bitter.
But she wasn’t.
When I would ask her how she found the strength to carry on, her answer was always simple: “I had to. What was I gonna do, quit?”
As Grandma got older, it became more and more difficult for her to get around. Just walking from the bedroom to the kitchen would exhaust her. Whenever it came time for the annual family reunion, it was always the same thing. She would tell me she didn’t know if she could go, she’s very weak, she doesn’t want to depress people by being there, she’ll probably stay home. The day of the reunion, there she’d be: sitting in a lawn chair beneath an umbrella and smiling at the rest of us acting like fools. Sometimes she’d be able to stay for an hour or two, sometimes just a few minutes, but she always made the effort.
No matter how Grandma felt physically, she never let that interfere with her love for her family. In fact, there was only one thing that really got her down more than anything else. I would come into the house and she would say hello and greet me with a kiss and I could tell something was wrong.
“What’s wrong Grandma?”
Her brow would be furrowed, she would be rubbing her forehead, and I knew what she was going to say.
“Ohhhhhhh, those Cubs. Why don’t they ever win? Don’t they know I’m rooting for them? I won’t be around much longer, they better start winning.”
Yep, Grandma was a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.
And still the next day, she’d be back in her bedroom, the TV on, and she’d be watching every inning. Of course she would. That was just who she was. Grandma might be upset, be she won’t give up on you. And in my head, I could hear her saying, “What was I gonna do, quit?”