My soul is mourning. That’s the only way to describe it. My grandmother, Joyce, passed away Thursday evening at 84 years old. She lived a full life, and when I saw her in December, I could see in her eyes that she was not long for this world. But still, after hearing the news of her passing this past Thursday, the news completely knocked the wind out of me. I guess the absoluteness of the situation still shocks you even though you know it’s coming.
I grew up a country girl who didn’t have much– but I always had what I needed- no more, no less. What I did have a lot of? Family. I was blessed with pretty much all of my family living on the same road in the same rolling-hills valley. For the first part of my life, I had three grandparents– my father’s mother and both of my mother’s parents. My grandmothers were the loves of my life. In the late nineties, I lost my father’s mother, Mildred and my grandfather, Bob. My first broken heart was not from a boy, but my grandmother dying. She lived right next to us, and she was so sweet and wonderful. I was constantly picking her flowers from the daffodil patch on the side of the road and she loved it. “Bless your heart”, she would say.
I am an extremely sentimental person, and I am not afraid to admit it. When I moved into the house I live in right now, I wanted a little bit of my grandma Mildred in my garden, and I planted some of her favorite flowers, peonies and narcsicuss’. I was happy to get some of her iris bulbs from my father last summer. These bulbs are close to 50 years old, and I am really hoping they come up for me this year.
While grandma Mildred was the finest example of what a grandmother was and should be, grandma Joyce blows that ideal out of the water. WAY out of the water.
My mother’s mother, Joyce, was in no way, shape or form like anybody I had ever known. That still holds true to my 35 year old self today. While you think of the typical little grandmother as being sweet and lovable, who knitted sweaters and baked cookies for you, Joyce did not. She was a old-school country woman who was brash, loud, and as lovable as a cactus. She could be downright embarrassing (ask my mother). It wasn’t her style to show affection. She drove a truck (and fast to boot). She was a tough old broad who said what she felt and didn’t fake anything. She was honest, eccentric, and what some might even call, a little bat-shit crazy. The irony of this all, is that these attributes are what made her so damn lovable.
My grandma Joyce was the original, genuine bad ass. She would pass people on a side street if they were going too slow. She would pull over on a treacherous dirt road in the middle of a thunderstorm to pick up an empty beer can just to get the 5 cents. I watched her rip a nasty snake in two pieces with her bare hands. This woman was freaking awesome.
I challenge anybody who knew my grandmother that didn’t deep-belly laugh when they were around her. You were always guaranteed to laugh in her presence. She lit up the room she was in, and anybody who was in a bad mood was no longer when she came around.
In the early years, every Sunday my siblings and I would go down to my grandma’s house and play kickball with my cousins and even my uncles at times. We would eat all her food and drink all of her milk. Grandma’s house is where I cultivated my love for black licorice and cheese curds. And she really did love having everyone around. She had 7 kids, and 16 grandchildren, so the front door was always slamming, and that drove my grandfather crazy.
As the years went on, I would continue to go to my grandmother’s house to visit with her. Unlike my friends and other people I knew, I didn’t go over to her house just to get money or something else of value, I loved talking with her. And I did that for years. She was my buddy, and I was her confidante. She talked to me about everything. I was her ear. And through those conversations was how I learned just how kind and compassionate she was. She was a genuinely good person who was just as vulnerable and sensitive as anyone else. Her tough exterior was justified. Life had not been too kind to my grandmother, she endured great loss, and lived with a broken heart for almost 50 years.
Like any great love story, there is always a rough patch. We did have a falling out for a few years, but we came back around just at the right time. I am so lucky to have had her for a grandmother. I just loved her. And I will continue to. Behind my mother and father, she was one of the single greatest influences on my life, which ultimately molded me into the person I became.
So, as for flowers or plants I should plant for her? That is still up in the air. Maybe I will ask my mom if she had a favorite. Grandma wasn’t a gardener–she didn’t have time with 7 kids. If she doesn’t know, I am sure it will come to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma herself doesn’t bonk me over the head with something she does like.
Don’t be afraid to let your garden tell your story. A little bit of your past, present and future is what makes it so grand.
Rest in peace, grandma. I will never forget you.