My dear Grandma Joyce died two weeks ago tomorrow.
I miss her more than I ever thought I could.
Grandma Joyce was wicked funny. Once when she woke up from a particularly hard surgery she said, “I’m so hungry I could slit my own throat. Oh, wait: someone already has!” She never missed an opportunity to tease her grandchildren mercilessly. (When I happened to slip my cell phone away between my legs when I was visiting her, she instantly replied, in no hushed tones, “It looks like you have a penis.”) Her favourite joke lately was to respond, after being asked what she was up to the last few days in her residential home at Concordia Place, “they roll me this way, then they roll me that way.”
She was up-to-date on the news, reading the newspaper every day even when her eyes began to tire easily. When I told her about Trudeau’s tussle in the House of Commons, she chuckled and said, “I remember when they used to chance his father through the streets.”
She was an avid reader, which is what I find most incredible. With six children, and after being married young, reading is usually one of the first hobbies to go to the wayside. But not my Grandma Joyce. At the lake, when she appeared to read the most, I would ask her about what she was working through at the moment. I remember I asked her once about Atonement and she stated that “the first half was kind of slow.” In her eighties she was still a devout literary critic.
She didn’t have a good life all the time, but she loved her life. Her outlook was incredible for an eighty-nine year old. I would allude to some of my worries, and she would shrug in a “what can you do” so of way. She wasn’t being dismissive, she was counting her blessings. And mine. Four out of her six kids still lived within a ten minute radius of her family home. “I’m so lucky to have people near me,” she would say.
We were the lucky ones.
I have started keeping a journal lately. This is what I wrote after attending her funeral:
“I think of Grandma: a whip-smartass farmgirl, married at 19 with a handsome husband who had been to war. I wonder if she felt worthy of his love. I’m sure she was intimidated by this man, even though she loved him. I hope she saw herself in female literary heroines. I’m sure she had no idea what she was doing, sometimes, and I hope she found solace in living through these women. Even back then, she carried her family’s heritage on her back. She faltered, sure, though anybody would have. She was a woman of her generation. She was one tough cookie.
I miss her so much. I want to know how she did it.”