the library of alexandra


An Ode to My Grandmother

my grandma passed away.

she was a housewife with three children; quiet, reserved, but had a loud laugh. later in life, after her children had grown, she was a tax preparer and genealogist. she loved to read romance novels, especially those old harlequin paperbacks that you could buy in batches at a secondhand store. she was smart, the matriarch.

she lived an incredibly long life, one that we could only hope for in terms of time: my grandmother made it to 86 years old, despite a host of medical issues that would plague the last years of her life, including heart failure and three bouts of hospice care—two of which she made it through to go back home.

the last time i was there, she was in hospice again. i helped set up an amazon echo in their home to try and help her navigate through the world with her worsening eyesight, damaged further from a surgery that was meant to save her from her cataracts. instead, she was forced to listen to her favorite stories instead, unable to see her favorite long-standing television show, days of our lives. once i taught her how to phrase things, she successfully played a song from her youth, an old country song that sang from the speakers carefully placed around the house.

gloria was born during a hot oklahoma july in 1937 to young parents. her mother was just 18 when she had gloria. her father passed away when she was 17. her wish is, was, to be buried next to him. she had my mother two years after his death.

my grandmother was apparently tough on her kids, but i never really understood why my mom hid the smell of cigarettes before going into my grandparents' house in arlington, texas, anytime we'd visit. my mom, the eldest out of gloria's children, had a bit of a rebel streak when she moved out, listening to rock n' roll, dancing at clubs, and smoking cigarettes now that she was free.

my mom's parents were almost the stereotypical american suburban 1950s family right out of footloose: no secular music (except country), no dancing, no alcohol, single-income family—right up to my grandpa's high-rise pants and union job at general motors. they were just from a different generation—barely taught how to navigate through the life they'd been given after the great depression, and doing their best, together.

for weeks, i've been thinking about calling her. it's been a couple of years since i've seen her in person, even though she was the only grandmother that was really involved in my life and actually nice to me. she gave the biggest hugs, and always was so, so proud of me.

the last time we spoke, i told her about an exciting development i'd found in my genealogy research, an interest she had instilled in me: she, and i, had descended from étiennette loret, a confirmed filles du roy — a group of about 800 french women sent by the king himself to quebec to create more colonizers. i phrased it a bit kinder; she seemed so thrilled to finally find something in her ancestry that gave her something that made her special or interesting. i don't think i'd ever heard her sound so happy.

there's so many things i've collected over the years from her, things she sent me from qvc and other made-for-tv items that she thought i'd enjoy or get a use out of. i used to be so embarrassed, especially as a teenager. when her eyesight was gone, she stopped. even cards signed by her were becoming difficult to see her handwriting. it felt like pieces of her were beginning to fly away in the wind, beginning to take her.

despite already having done so, i wish i could thank her now again for all those things that i so frivolously disregarded in youth, opportunities extending to grasp at a connection with me. my sister and i spent a summer at their house, miserable and deep within the throes of angst from my own troubles with my parents. i just remember so many sandwiches she made, sitting down with us to talk about what our thoughts were. she was so interested in us, and i didn't know how to handle it. i was so caught up in my own head, i couldn't see the amazing grandmother she was until i was already an adult, when we began to forge more of a relationship with one another. it was around the same time i began to realize that adults didn't just have some innate knowledge and wisdom; adults were figuring things out every step of the way, just like me.

my grandpa's rock, to whom he was married for 68 years, is gone. you've never heard of the town she's from. she may not have accomplished the things that so many people value as accomplishments, but she was a good person, and that matters so much more to me. she did what she thought she was supposed to do in life; she was a dutiful and loving wife, mother, and grandmother.

i'm proud of the person i come from. part of her is in me, forever and always. i hope she is finally at rest, at peace, and that we may one day see each other again.