Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Grandmother

I've spoken a lot about my Grandmother on my blog so I thought it was about time I introduced her. My Grandmother was very, very dear to me, and was the only Grandmother I ever knew.  

Yesterday was her birthday, a day on which I find myself reflecting more than usual on the profound influence she had on my life. When I was a little girl, she nourished me with her unconditional love and adoration. As I grew to be an adult, she was a voice of strength, wisdom and love. Always love. 

In the photograph above, she stands by her beloved rose garden at her home in the hills of Studio City, California. 

My Grandmother was my father's mother. He was her only child, so my brother and I experienced the honor of being her only grandchildren. She lived as a widow for the last thirty years of her life after her husband, our Grandfather, passed away in his sixties.  

When I was around ten years old, I started to leave her little love notes each time we visited. I would slip away at the end of the evening before we headed home and would sit down at her desk to write some words of adoration for her to find after we left. This became a tradition of ours. 

These handwritten notes eventually grew into long letters when I moved to Maine to go to college. And therein began our love affair of writing long letters to each other. Our long distance correspondance lasted for over a decade through my college years, after graduation, during my time in England, and continued after I returned to Maine to live for the subsequent seven years. 

My Grandmother had severe hearing impairment. She struggled with hearing her entire life, and I know that it affected her deeply in many ways. She told me that when she was young, she wore a large, battery-operated device with headphones in order to help her communicate verbally. By the time I was born, hearing devices had improved, so she was able to hear better with the use of hearing aids. But her hearing was a constant struggle for her, especially in the latter days of her life 

Despite her hearing impairment, she graduated from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) where she earned a degree in business. For her to graduate from UCLA despite a hearing impairment, and as a young woman in the 1930s, was quite an accomplishment which must have required incredible determination and patience. While she was at UCLA, she also gained a penchant for college athletics - she was a devoted UCLA Bruins football fan for all of her days!

She used to amaze my brother and I with her stories of walking through the long rows of the cornfields that she passed between her family home in the Hollywood Hills and the campus. That was incredible to imagine when we were kids in the 1970s and 80s. 

She suffered from dimentia during the last ten or so years of her life. This was hard for all of us. But for all of the short term memory that alluded her, she was given the gift of absolute clarity in recollections of her youth. She loved telling stories about growing up with her parents and all of the things that they did together. It was wonderful to witness because it was obviously a very happy time in her life. And ironically, I think reliving her role as her parents' only child was comforting for her as she grappled with the vulnerability of her memory loss and aging. 

The last time I saw my Grandmother, Mike and I were standing in her bedroom at her home in the hills. She was being attended to by a nurse by that time. We stopped by for a quick visit on our way out of town after visiting for the Christmas holiday. She looked at me standing next to my new husband Mike and said, "Oh my darling, you look so grown up standing there." 

She passed away that following spring at the age of ninety three. She lived a long and wonderful life but I miss her so.

When my mom and I were closing up her estate, I came across several large three ring binders tucked safely away in her closet. I took one out and sat on the bed to look at it. What I saw took my breath away. Resting in little protective plastic sleeves were all of the letters, photographs and postcards that I had sent to her over the the course of our correspondance, including those first little love notes I left for her when I was a little girl. 

These items that were accumulated over many years were the story of my life, and she held it so very dear. I don't think I've ever felt such utter adoration and love in my entire life. She gave me the most wonderful gift and I will never forget it. 

Yesterday, I went through some of her old letters. It's been about seven years now since she passed and as I read her words once again I was reminded of how beautiful and special she was. Her letters were so lovely. She made the most ordinary things in life sound like poetry. 

I will cherish her words forever. 

Her name was Margaret. 


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