My grandmother passed away yesterday. She was 90 years old.
Yesterday my grandmother died in the VA hospital here in Omaha. The VA hospital was a fitting place for her life to come to an end. She loved veterans, but especially being one herself. She was a nurse during the Korean war. She helped examine and take care of the men who would ship out for the Korean war.
I wish I had pictures to show you of this time of her life, and maybe if I can get my hands on some pictures I could scan them and share some more about her early life.
She was the baby of eleven children, and was born and raised in North Carolina. After joining the army as a nurse, she met my grandfather – who was a dentist in the military at the time – at Fort Knox. They were later engaged and got married in 1956 and moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is just across the Missouri River from Omaha. They lived there their entire lives.
I’m not going to write many of the details about the end of my grandmother’s life out of respect for the privacy of my mom and aunt, but I will say that she died peacefully at the hospital and on her own terms. Although she was very concerned about the fact she hadn’t done her hair or put on her lipstick. And if you knew her at all, that would not surprise you in the least bit.
To me, my grandma was my Mama. I’m not exactly sure how or when I started calling here that. But to me she was always my Mama. And I was her first-born grandson. And that meant so much to her. She used to always tell me how proud she was of me and how happy she was of her first-born grandson. 🙂
Some of my favorite memories of her:
- My grandparents owned a house on a lake about 45 minutes away. On vacations during the summers we’d always stay there at the lake with my grandparents, my aunt, and my uncle. I have always been a morning person, and a morning riser. She always was, too. And so oftentimes when I was little I remember waking up early and going upstairs to the kitchen of the lake house. And there she was. She always had curlers in her hair. As she made piping hot coffee for herself she would offer me some cinnamon-raisin rolls from the local grocery store and just kind of chat with me as she cleaned up the kitchen.
- She was a good cook of classic American comfort foods. Beef stew with dumplings were perhaps her most requested meal when we visited. But even more so than her cooking was her baking. She almost always had a big chocolate cake or brownies or her famous chocolate pie waiting for us when we would come to visit.
My favorite by far was her homemade chocolate pie with meringue. And the best part about that pie is that she would often offer it to me for breakfast before anyone else woke up. She would always apologize for it not being perfect, maybe a bit too runny or something, but no other pie has ever been better than any one of those pies my grandma made.
- At the lake house we’d often go on boat rides around the lake. My grandpa would take us around the lake and he’d even let me drive from time to time. My grandma wouldn’t come a lot of the time, and it made me sad when she decided to just stay home and cook dinner while we were out on the lake. But sometimes she would come, and I remember wanting to sit near her while on the boat to hear her reactions as we went over waves on the lake.
- My grandmother was a very skilled Scrabble player. And although it would take a lot of convincing to get her to play, when she did, she mopped us up. As a kid she also played me in checkers and would not feel bad about beating me. I enjoyed the challenge.
- She loved to spoil us as much as she could. She gave us all sorts of sugar cereals which we typically didn’t have at home. She gave us sweets, and gifts, and the amount of money of our age plus a dollar to grow on. 🙂 And in general, she was a very generous woman.
- She always sent cards every holiday. And she took this task very seriously. She made sure the words on the inside of the card were accurate and meaningful. She’d always underline various words to emphasize them – even double or triple underlining really important words. I would later also do the same for her when I would send her cards.
- Some of the best memories our family has is our three vacations to Oak Island, North Carolina. Just being at the beach with her and her side of the family. There were some real characters in her family. I wish I could tell those stories, too.
- Speaking of telling stories. My grandmother was an incredible storyteller. She really was. She used all sorts of very descriptive words that drew you into her stories. Granted you may hear them more than a time or two, but I always loved hearing her tell stories. And I can probably credit her as to one of the leading reasons why I love storytelling so much.
To be closer to her was one of the reasons we moved out to the Omaha area. Most of my family lives out here, and so we thought it would be good for her to be able to see her great-grandchildren from time to time. The highlights of the kids’ interactions with her were around halloween when the kids would dress up and go trick-or-treating at her Assisted Living facility.
I’m so glad we were able to let her spend some time with her great-grandchildren before she passed away. The last time they saw here was on the celebration of her 90th birthday.
Goodbye, Mama. We loved you and will miss you.