Friday, April 6, 2012

A Dedication to my Inspiration: Grandma Belle

My Grandma Belle never drove a day in her life but that lady could walk for miles.

She had chocolate brown eyes and a smile that could light up a room.

She was witty, sassy, smart, warm.

She made money cakes without putting tinfoil around the coins.

She could make a bed like no one's business.

Her favourite colour was purple.

She loved Lawrence Welk.  Then again...didn't that entire generation?

She got her hair done at the same place every Friday for years.  She would always walk there.

When I smell roses, I think of her and the first time she told me to breathe in the scent of the peach roses that sat on her kitchen table.

She made her chili with brown beans and broken spaghetti noodles.

She always offered jelly beans upon arrival to her home.

Snacks were often smoked oysters and sardines on buttered soda crackers.  I loved them.  Still do.

We never left their house without eating prunes.  My grandparents were always strangely concerned about our bowel movements.

I loved hanging out in their basement with it's bar and fake fireplace, old 1920's tunes playing on their  Victrola.

Often during our visits as young kids she would 'tickle our backs' lightly and more often then not we would fall asleep in her lap.

She loved to play with my hair too.  She couldn't find any elastics once after she had braided it and used twist ties instead.  Innovation at it's finest.

I always felt like her favourite grandchild though she had many...perhaps this is how we all felt, now looking back. Though, I have no doubt we had a very special connection.

My Grandma Belle was a huge inspiration to me.  Such an inspiration that my youngest son was named after her.  Her Maiden name was Findlay, my son's name is Finley.  She remains an especially big influence to me now that I'm a Mother.  A woman that can raise five children basically on her own, that have all remained close and are fun, adventurous, loving, intelligent and with such wonderful senses of humour while taking care of a husband who was ailing a lot of his life has done something very right and incredibly remarkable.

A while back I sat across from my Dad at his kitchen table and asked him what kind of Mother she was.  His reply said it all, "Ahhh...she was the best.  She was always there.  If you needed to talk or you needed to cry...she was just always there."

I was about 12 when she gave me a Royal Doulton figurine.  She told me to turn it over.  Her name was printed on the underside of the figurine's skirt -  Belle.  She told me she would be a reminder to me of her when she was no longer around.  I had protested, "Don't say things like that Gramma!" I couldn't imagine a woman as full of life and feist like her could ever die.  She smiled and shook her head and said, "I won't be around forever January."

I still have that figurine.  She sits displayed in my living room hutch in all her light green ballroom dress glory amongst the china of hers that was given to me from her children, my aunts and uncles, days after my wedding.

Not a day goes by that I'm not reminded of her beautiful spirit.

She loved her walks.  We took a long walk once, just the two of us...she took me to Wendy's and bought me a Frosty. To this day I can't pass a Wendy's without thinking of her and that special day.

When I was around 13 I started to notice her forgetfulness.  She would give me a compliment on my shirt...and then again minutes later.  In the beginning, she could read my face - perhaps I looked confused...but mostly it was upsetting.  I knew what was happening.  She did too.  Shortly after, my Poppy, her husband, passed away.

Her Alzheimer's became worse.  She was to be moved into a nursing home.

I remember my first visit at the home with my Mom.  She was up in arms about how she went out the front doors to go for a walk and was tracked down and brought back like a prisoner!  A criminal!  For wanting to go for a walk!  She was right pissed.  She may have been losing her memory, but she hadn't lost her zestiness.

I didn't visit her often when she became really sick.  It hurt like hell to see a woman so strong become a shadow of her former self.  Maybe I was wrong, but I have very little memories of her that way...maybe that's awful and selfish, but I remember her for the woman she really was.

When she was in the hospital nearing the end of her time here on Earth and she has lost all memory of who anyone was, my Dad was visiting her.  A song came on the radio and my father asked her to dance.  He said to me later, with tears in his voice, that as they danced together in that hospital room, Mother and Son, he believed that she recognized who he was.

I believe she most definitely did.

I received the emotional phone call from my Dad when I was 18, telling me that she had passed on...I knew it was coming...I just wasn't prepared for it.

I had a dream that night that she was sitting at my bedside, holding my hand as she always sought to do when we sat next to each other.  I don't remember the conversation, I just remember how vivid it felt.  In my dream I asked her for a sign..."If this is really you Grandma, give me a sign."  I awoke to the phone ringing at 7 am.  I answered it.  There was no dial tone.  No one on the other end.  The call display said 'Unknown Name, Unknown Number.'

I knew it was her.

The three days her obituary was in the paper, the newspaper was delivered to our door.

We didn't order the paper.  We didn't have a subscription.

At her funeral, I remember sitting on the couch of the parlour crying.  Her presence beside me was palpable.  I felt her holding my hand.

I felt her hand in mine.

To this day I have dreams.  Of her and I just sitting.  Talking.  Like we always did.  They give me great comfort.  I know she is always around.  But I still miss her every day.

Today is her birthday and I hope she's celebrating as hard as she always did, with a groove in her gitalong and a big smile on her face.

Happy Birthday Grandma Belle.

You've never been forgotten.

You never will be.

Beautiful Belle  XO

1 comment:

Stacey said...

This is beautiful, January. I loved reading your memories of your grandmother. I was really close to mine, as well. I still have dreams where I'm talking to her and my grandfather on the phone or visiting with them - usually around the time something major is going on in my life. I believe with all my heart that it's truly them, and that your Grandma Belle was talking to you too. Happy Birthday to her!