I have been so proud these forty four years to say that I still have a grandma.
My first set of grandparents passed away when I was in my early twenties. My last grandfather passed away about ten years ago.
And tonight, around 6:45 p.m., my last grandma breathed her last.
She was 95-years-old, and she lived a good, long life.
Still, it’s tough to lose your guardian angel. That’s what grandparents are, afterall.
When life gets busy to the point of consuming all of your time and energy, it’s your grandparents who remind you of where you came from. Who you are.
It’s your grandparents who pray for you quietly all of those years. It’s their thoughts of you that keep you keeping on.
And now my last guardian angel has gone away to join the others in whatever celestial role they play in the everafter.
Of all my grandparents, Lois Shook was the one that took me a lifetime to understand.
And that is no fault of hers.
As a young boy full of interest in the workings of the world, my grandfather’s work with fire and metal and wood drove me from the house at the crack of dawn to watch him work his industrial magic.
After a long day of playing in the gardens and the tool sheds, grandpa would unbuckle his overalls and untie his shoes, while we bustled off to the kitchen to watch grandma put the finishing touches on whatever amazing meal she was making.
I didn’t grow up around my grandparents, so any time spent with them was novel. Every experience was a chance to learn about myself through their stories.
My grandmother was a quiet, private person. I never knew if she was angry or happy. And so as a child, I aspired to spend as much time as I could playing in the yard and following my grandfather around his shop.
Tonight as I reflect on the forty four years of her ninety five years that I was a part of her existence, I realize just how influential this last of my guardian angels was on my life.
These words I write in her honor are, in large part, because of her.
Before I could remember much of anything, there were words. They weren’t her words, but she read them to me from the pages of books. She read them to me, and I suppose I soaked them up and they made me who I am.
In later years, we played her favorite game, Scrabble, a lot. And I learned to play with the words she read to me, not the best mathamatical combinations for scoring. In spite of my dire warnings, my brand-new wife played my grandma to win. But winning wasn’t a score to my grandma. It was a clearly superior vocabulary. She relished the great words long and short that made her a constistantly tough opponant.
In these last years, she went away somewhere we couldn’t always reach her. I’m not sure of the last time she knew who I was. I think it was a couple of years ago when I visited her with my cousin Jessie and my aunt Brook.
We were supposed to go to the beach at Bodega Bay, a favorite picnic spot since I was a child. But she wasn’t feeling it. So we ended up at a restaurant, where my cousin and I caught up on several decades.
Grandma nodded along as if she was following our conversation. I believe she was.
Later we walked through a garden together. She always appreciated gardens, having been a master gardener herself. I held her arm, and we walked slowly through vegetables and herbs. I was grateful for the moments of lucidity
I last saw her a year ago the day before Easter. She smiled now and then. Perhaps she listened to the vocabularies of her children and grandchildren and great gandchildren and smiled about all of those she influenced.
Maybe she was playing Scrabble with some unseen partner somewhere in the recesses of her mind. But that thought is for my benefit.
These memories are mine.
I’m grateful to have had an amazing set of guardian angels throughout my life. I hope that they have prepared me for that same role some day.
Rest in Peace, Grandma. I love you.