Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Grandmothers

The blog prompt today certainly falls into more serious subject matter than I usually write about. But it gave me pause. I have to really think about what I’ve experienced to determine if anything I’ve been through in my life would be described as “trauma.” I feel certain that those people who have been through terrible events would characterize my life as pretty easy, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. I know that I’ve been very blessed.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had pain. And who’s to say what might constitute “trauma” for a person?

In June of 2000, both of my grandmothers died within a week of each other. My maternal grandmother, Dolly, died on the 11th and then my paternal grandmother, Anna, died a couple of days later. They were both well up there in years – both in their 90s. Anna had been in a nursing home for quite a while – she actually told me a year or so before she died that she wondered why God had kept her alive that long. Her body had deteriorated but her mind really hadn’t, so she knew what she couldn't do any more. My favorite memory of Anna comes from my birthday, when I was about 5. She took me shopping for a present and we bought a toy grocery store. She played grocery with me for hours - or that's what my memory tells me. I loved staying at her house in Decatur. The room where we stayed had a crawl-space/small attic area in it, and it scared me – in a good way- when we spent the night there. And Anna was a great cook, so we ate very well!  Anna loved to read, but she gradually lost the majority of her sight over a number of years. I can’t imagine how difficult that was for her, but I don’t remember her dwelling on it, at least in our presence.

Dolly was a different story. Until 1994, she lived on her own, playing golf and bridge with her friends, taking trips to the beach with family, and even taking a whole slew of us to Paris in 1990. When I graduated from college, I moved to Chapel Hill with the intention of going to graduate school. It was moving away from home, but still close to people who would take care of me. My brother Phillip was finishing his doctorate at UNC, and Dolly lived in Chapel Hill, and I actually lived with her for a few months. Many times, if I had to choose between hanging out with friends or doing something with Dolly, I’d choose Dolly. We saw movies, ate at the K&W Cafeteria or just hung out.

After Rick and I moved to Baltimore, we still went down to Chapel Hill once a month or so. We spent lots of family time at the beach. Dolly stayed in her townhouse in Chapel Hill until she broke her pelvic bone surf-fishing in the Atlantic Ocean at Nags Head in 1994. After that, she moved in with my Aunt Kate, and lived there in Salem, VA until she died on June 11, 2000.

I won’t go into the long story here, but my prayers were answered in a significant way just prior to my grandmothers’ deaths. I was able to see Anna about a week before she died, and I got to drive up to see Dolly the weekend before she passed away.

The summer of 2000 was the hardest summer I’ve ever had to endure. I didn’t realize until much later that I was as affected by their deaths as I was. And I still miss them, most every day. And I know it wasn’t trauma like some of the terrible things people have to endure every day, but it was traumatic for me.

I’ll say it again – I’ve been very blessed. And in spite of how hard their deaths were for me, the blessing was in knowing them.


  1. Grandmothers truly are special, and I hope I have the chance to be half the grandmother that my own was.