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Aug 25, 2008 6 Comments
She was so certain of her eye and what she wanted that on a visit to her house some years ago with my wife, she pointed to one of my paintings that I'd given her. Sweetly, with innocent pride, she said "Did you notice where I fixed it?" The air left the room as my wife stepped back not knowing what I would do. Grandma had "fixed" my painting, adding a highlight and a shadow where she thought they were missing. Who fixes a painting, a hand crafted gift from a family member? My grandmother. "I also fixed that bird you gave me a few years ago." It was this kind of certainty that I'd known my entire life.

Out past the dining room of her 1957 house in the suburbs of Wilmington, the porch with its three screened walls was an exotic place where the outside and inside blended. In its carpeted shelter you could taste the outside air and listen to armies of cicadas serenading each other with their buzz saw love song in the trees of her backyard. There we'd play Rummy 500 - my brother always got the aces - and eat bologna sandwiches. These were the sandwiches of someone that once new poverty. She didn't talk much of it but the two slices of white bread barely moistened with just enough mayonnaise to shine holding a single slice of meat said enough.

Those trees where the noisy bugs hid seemed huge to me, vast gray trunks reaching past the sky. It was a lucky visit when I'd get to see one of the cicadas emerge from the ground as some primeval juggernaut and birth itself again as an adult. I was quite little then. At the time, grandma was mostly just another adult, another immovable constant that gave hugs and candy. She'd lived in that house since before my time began and would be there after my time was up. But those armored insects bigger than my young thumbs were even older, they were magic. When there weren't cicadas, there was the ancient typewriter in the basement, trips to the craft and hobby stores for supplies and bug catching apparatus, the curiosities of old family nick-nacks, and digging through the strange toys and stuff that were once my mother's and aunt's.

I don't know if we can draw neat lines between who we are today and our parents and their parents and so on. I do know that she was the only grandparent I ever knew. She was a connection to a part of history, our family history. With her passing, one of those tethers has been cut. Sometimes the stories didn't quite make sense, but, George, my grandfather I never knew, was more real in her telling than he ever was staring out of a black and white image.

We like to say that whatever artistic talent I might have, I got from her, through her. Do I also credit her for my temper, my childish moments, my propensity to envy? Easy she wasn't. Sometimes she saved her best side for strangers and doled out her bile to those closest. To the very end, right or wrong, she was stubbornly trying to live her life her way. No, she wasn't going to physical therapy. No, she wasn't going to eat that. No, she wasn't going to take her pills. No. But No won't take you very far. And so piece by piece, she disappeared. It was as though you'd stepped into a house after a big dinner. You could smell the work of the kitchen, but the food was gone.

Today, we buried Angela. She was a month shy of 91 years old. My mother, who shouldered the burden of the past decade, cried. My father consoled her. My aunt stared. I fought back tears, trying to think of anything else - my wife, a ride on a motorcycle, the pattern of small flags above stones. The casket didn't seem large enough. There was a big chunk of my life in it. It didn't seem large enough to contain all those experiences. I couldn't speak.

Good bye, Angela. You were my grandmother. For me, even as you became a whisper of your formal self, you were always willing to laugh, to smile, to tell a story. I love you. I miss you.


native    Aug 25, 2008  at  6:00 pm

The beauty of life, and love.  Grandmas are special, glad you had lots of time with her Scott.  Jay

A friend    Aug 25, 2008  at  8:58 pm

Sorry for you loss

derek    Aug 25, 2008  at  10:19 pm

A rich tribute. The Gores family is thinking of you.

Jackie McIntyre    Aug 28, 2008  at  9:22 am

Beautiful tribute to a very much loved Grandma, thanks for sharing your loss. My sympathy to you and your family.

Carolyn Taylor    Oct 17, 2008  at  5:15 pm

I want to say I’m sorry about the loss of your remarkable grandmother, but all I can say (once more) is. “Wow, you write as well—as evocatively—as you paint!”


Your admirer and pork chop collector,


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