For a very long while now, I have been trying to write an entry about my paternal grandmother. Hell, for even longer, I’ve been trying to write an entry about my dad, but I settled on my Gramma L first because she’s a bitchin’ lady. She’s one of those people who deserve to be remembered. The thing about Wilma (yes, her name was Wilma) is that in talking about her and writing about her, I think I’ll be opening up a big ole can of worms. It’s because of this that I’ve been putting her entry off and off. I’ve gotten anecdotes from my mother as I had asked for when I was writing about my maternal, dead grandmother. I have a general idea of what I want to say, but it’s been pretty difficult to get out there. It’s all of that armchair psychology horse manure that I like to do only once in a blue moon, really. It causes a lot of problems and I get the feeling that with this entry, I’ll end up doing that and dealing with those problems.
I don’t have a lot of memories of my paternal grandmother. She died when I was nine years old, about two years after the death of my daddy. So, to clearly say that I remember her is difficult. As time goes by, even the memories that I cherished of my father are replaced by things that I’d rather not have replace him. The same goes for the memories of my Gramma L. I guess it’s just the way that life ends up: you forget the things from your childhood as your memory spots are replaced by things like children’s birthdays, ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar, the kids’ favorite foods, grades in school, the time period in China that the Black Death showed up for the first time, and other ephemera related to growing up and being an adult or merely, miscellanea that thinks it’s a good idea to take over said spots.
My grandmother lived in a giant gray Victorian. It’s because of her that I have had a life-long obsession with the idea of owning a big gray Victorian with black shudders. Her house wasn’t very large: three rooms on the first floor and three rooms on the top floor, but it was wonderful. I loved going over there for the family parties and spending time there. There was a window seat in the dining room with pillows in the big bay window. I remember dreaming of sitting there with a book during the high days of summer. I remember being excited when I got to walk up and down the tiny steps that led to the front walk. I remember enjoying the swinging in the porch swing that was on the left-hand side of the wraparound porch. I remember running around the grass in the summer time and burying dog bones under the bushes with the other cousins. (My grandmother never stocked cookie treats or anything like that, but she had dog biscuits in abundance for her two dogs.) I also remember one summer where a cousin of mine set fire to the front lawn, but that’s not my story to tell. All I can say is that my clearest memories of my grandmother have to do with the big gray house she lived in until she died and that I never saw again after that.
Gramma was pretty big on building things. She liked to create things with her hands. This is probably why when she re-married to Papa, she chose a man who could build with his hands. He would create things, just like her first husband (who was a woodworker). Papa was big on making clocks, if I’m not mistaken, and re-building old cars (I’ll get into a post about him one day… and as a quick note, I found his Stanley Steamer while doing a whimsical search.) But, my Gram didn’t work on the cars or the clocks, as far as I know. She worked on sewing things and creating things. It was because of her, I think, more than anything or anyone else that my mom started getting into things like that. But, her biggest creation things were the building of dollhouses and the giant train set that was set up in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
All of us kids loved to watch this train set. She would turn it on for us to watch the trains go by, but I was more fascinated with the intricate details that went into creating the landscape. There were tunnels and houses and signs and people and bushes and animals. They were all so tiny. I can remember wondering just how much time she put into the creation of the thing. I know that it was a love of trains that my father had later in life because when we were packing up the basement before we moved to Texas, my stepbrother stumbled onto his train collection. I wonder if this was a bonding point between the two people who I loved the most and died on me, or if it was because of one that the other because interested. I’ll never know because, unfortunately, I can’t ask them. But, I’ve always kind of wondered what the correlation there was.
My grandmother had a pretty bad memory as far as birthdays went. I mean, probably, it wasn’t her fault. She had twelve grandchildren by that point (if I’m counting up correctly), on top of her five kids and their spouses. So, in an effort to keep anyone from feeling left out, she cooked up the best scheme in the history of ever, which was entitled Everybody’s Birthday. Oh, sure. We all had parties that family was invited to during the proper time, but my grandmother celebrated this one day a year for everybody. My mom tells me that she held it around her birthday, probably as a way for all of us to remember her birthday in turn: my gramma was smart as hell. So, every year, we’d get together and do something. I remember the renting out of a baseball diamond. The kids all had one diamond and were practicing how to hit the baseballs from the t-stand things while the parents were doing a real baseball game. Well… real is relative: there was alcohol involved. Then, another year, I remember we went to the circus, but this memory is vague. I was probably only three or four at the time, honestly.
But the thing that I remember most about my grandmother is how much she loved me. She always made me feel very loved and very happy. The thing is that on that side of the family, I never really felt as though I belonged. Sure, I did to an extent, but I did not really feel comfortable with them. I was a dork, a homebody, a reader. My cousins were all about toys and playing and Barbies. Later on, I was still a dork, a homebody, a reader, and self-composed while the rest of my cousins were interested in popular music, boys, and makeup. I never felt very comfortable there, but my grandmother made me feel as though I belonged. I remember a feeling of purity and light and love from that woman. I think, honestly, the learning that my daddy was not my daddy would have been a smoother transition if she had still been there to make me feel welcome and at home, but she wasn’t. And I got to sit around after the fact wondering if the out-of-place feeling I felt with that family was my fault because, technically, I didn’t belong, blood of their blood, or if it was just the loss of a woman who always made me feel at home.
The thing about my grandmother, really, is that she was larger than life. She loved everyone and everything. Okay, yeah. I’m sure there were things that she didn’t like or thought better of, but you would never know it. She was so full of vim and vigor that you were caught up in the spell she wove. How often do you hear of a woman who divorced her first husband, remained friendly with him, remained friendly with her ex-husband’s new wife and her kids, while also bringing the family together at least two to three times a year? I mean, yes. I’m sure the weaving of the miscellaneous parts of the family were also because of Grampa B and his nature, but I think it says a lot. She would gladly welcome anyone into her home. It wasn’t that we were all a ragtag bunch of blocks on the same quilt: we all belonged together.
And that, more than anything, is who my grandmother was, who my grandmother is, and who my grandmother will always be as far as I am concerned.
To Wilma, the woman who always made me feel like I belonged.