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QOTD: Mark Twain & going through the bits & pieces of my Dear Granny’s life

May 17th, 2009

“I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That’s bad enough for me.” — Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

We’re getting my Dear Granny’s things sorted out — photos, letters, cookbooks, everything. Her life. Quilts, Estee Lauder perfume, surgical razors (the kind that scarred my leg when I used one shaving, age 12), nitroglycerin tabs left over from my Grandpa, in teeny-tiny bottles, safety pins, bobby pins, Chicken Soup for the Country Soul.

When the Bough Breaks, my favorite Lois Duncan book, Christmas earrings, journals, more safety pins. Emery boards, probably 50 of them or more. A girl just cannot have enough emery boards. Christmas, birthday, thank you cards; ones she received, blank ones she was going to send.

We used to build little houses out of the old Christmas cards — we’d punch holes in the sides and weave them together with yarn? Something, I can’t remember and neither could she. We used to do them every year. And we’d make little gift cards out of them, for the next year. She would have loved this site. “I was young during the Depression, honey, we didn’t throw anything away.”

She told my uncle, Make sure Nancy gets these, and left me a few boxes of old cards, letters and clippings. My mom is going through each item, painstakingly. She’s transcribing the old journals, they’re wonderful.

Such a temper in real life, my Dear Granny, but in the journals? So happy. Going up to Larch Mountain to gather firewood, building a corral for their mean-tempered pony, cooking strawberry-rhubarb pie, pork roast, scalloped corn and a million other things for us.

“Nancy’s birthday” she wrote on one page, “and our anniversary in four days. Would I marry the same man again? I WOULD!”

Someday I’ll write more about her, about this, about how painful it was yesterday to sort through her entire life in one fast afternoon, blurred and illustrated by photos. It won’t be today.

Steve is at a birthday party with the kids, I’m studying for my first exam this week. (Psychology 311, Human Development.) Other than Linguistics 390, this is the most difficult course I’ve ever taken. I’ve been out of school so long, married now, I have two little kids I’m chasing after (the hours between 9 and 3 go sweeping by), there has been work, caregiving, grieving, housework.

I need to finish my prerequisites and start on a master’s program. When? How?

Back to studying. And trying not to recall my Dear Granny’s voice, her smile, her telling me, Happy birthday, honey, and “our anniversary is in four days!” (their anniversary is sandwiched between my birthday and my mom and Granny’s birthdays; my Grandpa’s birthday, always overlooked, was just after Christmas), trying not to think of sunny weekend afternoons, lazing in her living room, reading Lois Duncan for the 50th time and listening to her banging pots and pans in the kitchen.

Yelling, One of you kids, come get this down for me! because she was so short she couldn’t reach her highest cupboards. My late cousin, Travis, ambling into the kitchen, reaching down whatever it was, saying, There you go, Little Grandma, and patting her on the head.

Oh, you! and she’d chase him out. But before he left, he’d raise up his arm parallel to the floor and tease her, See? You could walk right under.

She was buried next to Grandpa, not far from Travis, in her favorite red dress and her favorite necklace, the “crystal” beads that my Grandpa gave her, that she loaned me to wear on my wedding day. I found the matching earrings yesterday, going through her things. They’re mine now. None of it is worth any money, her stuff, but it’s priceless. We’re talking about a woman who labeled the slides of “truck in ditch” the “good slides” and stuck ’em in a box.

Internets, why does so much rotten stuff happen all the time?

(OK. I wrote that, then I read this post and I’m thinking, you got to take the sweet along with the bitter, don’t you?)


  1. WackyMummy says

    (That was a good link you posted… I enjoyed reading about her perspective of life in the jungle and gratitude for the little things.)
    Wack, you share such devotion and love for your Gran without idealizing her… such a precious gift, and I’m sure she’s thrilled looking down, watching you remember her and get your equilibrium back. Grieving is such a rough thing to do, and I admire your grace and courage through it. I have to say, as cheesy as it sounds, it inspires me (as I work through my own grieving process (for an entirely different thing) right now). I’ll keep you in my thoughts. Take care, internet friend. :)

    May 18th, 2009 | #

  2. The Other Laura says

    Nancy, I admire your grace and courage too as you’re moving through such a painful time.

    Hang in there.

    May 18th, 2009 | #

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