Missing my grandmother Betty
April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Whenever someone I know or someone a friend cares for passes on, I’m reminded of the loved ones I’ve lost in my 39 years. Each new loss sparks that deep yearning for their presence just one more time.
As an Elton John lyric describes, the circle of life set to real life.
Recently I attended a memorial service that brought back those feelings. It’s the longing for the happiness my loved ones brought to life, and the sadness they are no longer here.
Sorrow is tricky that way.
I have those feelings about my grandmother any time someone dies. In physical time, my maternal grandmother, Betty Wilson McAnany, was only here with me six years, three months and 12 days. Whatever truly binds grandmothers and granddaughters, our connection was there, as strong as the Colts defense on a perfect Sunday afternoon, from the beginning.
Quite simply, Betty and I were tight.
I wish I could recall every second of those six years, three months and 12 days. But some of the hardest parts about being a kid are the difficult times we hardly remember. Like learning to walk. Not easy. Learning to talk. Not at all an easy process. And don’t forget potty training. Easy for some.
Others, that takes some work.
Of the six years, three months and 12 days my grandma was in my life, I can’t remember much before the age of 4. That is the bummer of it all. I vividly recall my aunt teaching me all the stanzas of “Little Orphan Annie” around that time. But the only aspect of that learning exercise I remember now is the goblins are going to get me if I don’t watch out. That’s actually lifelong advice, if I think about it.
Thank you, Mr. James Whitcomb Riley.
I also don’t remember all the details of my grandmother being sick from cancer. That, in retrospect, is a good thing. A few memories remain, like trips to the hospital for chemo treatments and the day the ambulance took her to the hospital for the last time. I stood at the picture window of my grandparents’ house as my great-aunt Helen held me tight. And before I knew it, my grandmother Betty was gone.
I didn’t really understand it much then.
I don’t think I’ll ever know why.
My grandmother was sweet and tough and tall. I know that from memory and the stories my mother has told me about her. When my grandmother Betty was 18, she ventured from a tiny Illinois town called Altamont to Indianapolis. The change was scary for her, I’m sure.
I believe that’s where I truly inherited my free spirit.
My grandmother was the oldest of six children. She loved her family. I know this because some of my best early memories are of playtime at the elementary school yard across from my great-grandparents’ house, the Wilsons. We would visit them often, especially on holidays. I played on see-saws, swings, slides and monkey bars. I could hardly make it across a set of monkey bars. But I always tried. I obviously was engineered to something far less strenuous on my triceps.
Like the Running Man.
My grandmother Betty’s mother, Ruth Wilson, was the matriarch of all matriarchs. She was short, cute, rowdy with a scrub brush in the bathtub, and a master of fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy. My great-grandmother could make dinner for 20-plus, no problem. Lard, eggs, flour, chicken, potatoes, green beans, corn, beets and rhubarb were all she needed to create a Sunday masterpiece.
Man, I miss that.
I felt a connection to Ruth, too, that has been vacant since I said goodbye to her in my early teen years. Little did she know that by bringing my beautiful grandmother and great-aunts into the world, I was molded into the women I am today.
I wonder what she would think.
My maternal grandmother and great-aunts were always full of humor, sometimes ornery, and had a deep love and respect for family. Even before the women’s lib movement started in the 1960s, the Wilson sisters could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, as the Enjoli commercial from the ’70s touted. Never underestimate the power of perfume.
As people come and go, now and in the future, I’ll always take the time to remember the loved ones who have come and gone into my life. I’ll recognize the path they made for me. I’ll appreciate the family traits they’ve passed on to me that get me where I’m going.
And I’ll always know six years, three months and 12 days can feel like a lifetime.
April E. Clark is headed to the land of cheese curds and beer for the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. Her column appears every Wednesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.