Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Grandmas

Welcome to Friday, and I need a nap. My grandmother passed away this week, and I started a new job, so I am about ready for a Murder, She Wrote marathon in bed with a careful selection of junk food. And so I’ve been thinking about things that remind me of my cranky, wonderful, amazing grandma.

A photo of my grandmother
My grandma, Bega, at 16

My grandma was a cranky lady, but vibrant, too. Whenever I would complain about life, she would chide,”Well, what did you expect? Life’s not a bowl of cherries!” But she also painted beautiful watercolors, could finish a crossword in ballpoint pen, discovered the best bargains at estate sales, and loved a cozy mystery story. At some point I gave her the nickname of Bega, though I’m not sure where I came up with it. It became a term of endearment and she got very upset once when I thought I was too old and too cool to say Bega and started saying Grandma. So Bega she will always be.

So this is just a long way of asking, in the spirit of Bega’s bowl of cherries comment: what phrases remind you of people who have passed from your life?

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

26 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Grandmas”

All these stories are making me sniffly at my desk. My grandparents are still with us, but my husband’s grandmothers were BFFs who talked on the phone every day. They both lost their husbands at relatively young ages–one to Alzheimer’s, one to a massive heart attack–and even after  Bear’s parents divorced stayed super close. They passed away within a few months of each other the first year that Bear and I were dating. The last thing his Gramma Helen ever said to him was about me (we never met):

“Is your new girlfriend Italian, Bear’s name?”

“No, Gramma, she’s Irish.”

“Oh, good. Well then I love her already!”

I’m very sorry for your loss.

A couple of years ago, one of my best friends growing up overdosed on pain medications. It was never determined whether the death was suicide or an accident. We had a falling out in high school and hadn’t really talked since, which made it really hard. Since then I really evaluate whether ending a friendship is worth it. When we were in elementary school we used to play Spice Girls all the time and we both always wanted to be Posh (I think he made a better Posh then I did!). Our families went camping together a lot and we had the best adventures swimming in the lake and hiking. One time we climbed a fence to get in an old awesome looking playground, and we both got cut on the fence and had to get tetanus shots, and I can just remember the expressions on our mother’s faces when they found us. Pretty much the same exasperated faces they always had when we got into trouble. He was just so vibrant and unafraid to be himself, even at an age when most of us are so self conscious. I really miss him and I’m sad we never really made up.

One of my great-grandmothers always called me Goldilocks, while the other was a bit more eh.. fleshy? and always told me to ‘give your boobs some airing space, everyone likes to see that!’. It started during puberty (the horror!) and lasted until she started suffering from Alzheimer, so little less than nine years.

I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing.

I’ve lost three out of four of my grandparents and even though it has been years since their respective deaths, I still get blubbery when they come to mind (aw geez, I can’t even get through a short post without tearing up).

Grandpa Jose: He was a super grump in the latter years of his life, but he was highly intelligent. I remember him teaching me to play chess and soundly trouncing me every time. He also loved my grandmother’s cooking. For lunch, she would regularly serve up several courses including a soup course and, in reply to its deliciousness, my grandpa would say, “It’s good.” He was a man of few words, but always made his appreciation clear.

Nana Blanca: The aforementioned cooking wizard, she was the absolutely queen of guilt tripping us. “I know the food isn’t very good.” “You don’t want any more?” “Eat. You are too thin.” Whenever we would sit down to eat (which would be quite often), she would use all of those variations on trying to suss out compliments on her fabulous cooking (seriously, she would make the most magnificent meals). She had a real love for butterscotch pudding and even if she had made a cake, there would always be a final course of Jello pudding. Unfortunately, after the death of my grandpa Jose, it became abundantly clear that he had been covering up just how ill she was. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I try to remember her at her best, not at her worst.

Grandpa Henry: Now, I realize one should not pick favourites among the deceased (it’s a little tacky, neh?), but I had a real connection with my grandpa Harry. He was the most intelligent and quirky man I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He did the Cryptic Crossword puzzles every day, introduced me to Harry Potter (and bought the books for me every year they were released until his death circa Order of the Phoenix), took countless photographs of birds, made me a pin-the-belt-buckle-on-the-Power-Ranger poster for my birthday… I could go on and on about all the fun and funny things he did. One thing he did say often was, “Pshaw your muff!” Apparently, as a child, he had a film projector and a couple canisters of incomplete films. This one particular silent film involved a lady dropping her hand-warmer and a young fellow sauntering up to her and exclaiming, “Pshaw your muff!” And then the reel abruptly ended.

Thanks for making this LTP. It’s nice to hear from everyone and, despite the tears, it was nice to remember my own dearly departed.

I lost my grandfather just a couple of months ago.  He was 91 and my last surviving grandparent.  What I remember most about him is that he sang tenor in a gospel quartet, something he did until as late as last year.  He had a clear, strong beautiful voice that I can still hear vividly in my memory.

They were my ‘city’ grandparents, as opposed to my mother’s parents who were my ‘country’ grandparents.  It’s funny to think of them like that now because the degrees of difference are pretty small but that’s how I differentiated between the pairs.  When I was growing up, City Grandparents took us to White Castle and Wendy’s and Dairy Queen after church.  At Country Grandparents, we shelled peas and picked wild blackberries and watched for snakes when we played in the cornfield.

Between this post and the one about growing older, I’m feeling all kinds of nostalgic.  :-)

I’m sorry about your grandmother. I’ve lost two of my grandfathers (I was lucky enough to have three). It still hurts sometimes.

Thankfully my grandmothers are both still going at it. It’s incredible to compare them to each other. They went to the same highschool, married men from the same school as well. (and then my parents went to the same high school, too – hello small town!) But they have led incredibly different lifes. They have offered a great perspective into how one can approach life and find happiness.

They don’t have catch-phrases really but I can always imagine their voices in my head. The way they speak, how they speak. The way they each say my name differently. Their hand gestures. They are day and night but I have taken bits and pieces from each of them. I even look just like my mom’ mother. But I got my dad’s mother’s harsh anxiety. So, while I can’t find a phrase they might say, I can imagine how they would each approach a situation.

But both women love to garden, and garden well. I’m happy that has made it’s way through all the generations. (she says with roses soaking in her kitchen…)

My dad passed a year ago.  It was totally sudden and unexpected and like someone just turned the lights out while you were reading a really good book.  He had been sober for six years before he died.  They were the best six years of our family.  We grew extremely close those last few years.  He saw both of his daughters get married, his first grandchild, had made wonderful (sober) friends, and had become the supportive loving father and husband that we always knew he could be.

Dad used to always say: “Watch the doughnut, not the hole.”  Look at what you have, not what you’re missing.  This became especially poignant after his death.  I mourn him, but I had six amazing years with my Daddy.  My son knew a wonderful man who I get to tell him about every day of his life.  I have the most beautiful memories that will never fade.  I know I was loved by a good, decent and sober man.  I am so thankful for that.

. . . and now I’m crying at work.  Oh well, good excuse to shut my door.

So sorry to hear about your grandma. Grandparents are just the best, aren’t they? My grandfather left behind a number of family in-jokes, including saying “open your ears, fathead!” when somebody didn’t hear you. Every time I say that (always lovingly) to my cousins, I imagine his voice.

I’m so sorry for your loss, she sounds like an awesome woman.

My grandmother was a spitfire with a fantastic sense of humor. I didn’t learn to appreciate that humor until my last few years with her, when I was a teenager. She had a lot of funny expressions, mostly generational. Things like “full of bologna” or “you’re a hot ticket” always remind me of her (and my cousins and I will say them to each other, imitating Grammy’s thick Boston accent). Just this morning, my puppy was being a goofball, and without thinking I said “ya little devil”, something she used to say with endearment when we were rambunctious kids. I will always remember the twinkle in her eyes when we would act up, she absolutely loved it.

Also, after every bath/shower, I’d be wrapped up in my towel,  and she’d sing “here she comes, Miss America” as I walked past, because she knew it drove me nuts.

I’m sorry for your loss.

“So and so’s a Catholic, but a good Christian too,” has become something my mother and I say to each other when the ridiculousness of the protestant side of the family trying to get us to “know Jesus” starts to get to us. It’s something my great-grandmother used to say fairly often of her Catholic friends. From her it always seemed kind of endearing, as the woman, for all her weird ideas of how religion worked, never had a mean bone in her body. Occasionally we would barb her back with, “Oh my friend is a Baptist, but a good Christian too.” It would always leave her flustered and us feeling mean.

ETA; the other great-grandmother used to say, “They have one foot in Hell, and the other one on a slippery spot,” whenever she thought someone was being overly sanctimonious. It’s a glorious little turn of phrase.

Oh man, that’s rough.  My grandma was… difficult, I now realize as an adult (and seeing more clearly how she treated my mom), but when I was little, I thought she was The Greatest Ever (my grandpa was a close second).

My grandpa was the one with all the weird turns of phrase, though, and about a week ago I caught myself doing the shoulder tapping thing he always used to do when thinking/pontificating/etc.  while I was explaining something to my dude.  I miss them both dearly, even though it’s been a few years since they died :(

Here’s some Internet hugs and a scientific equipment-riding turtle:!/subsurface_life/status/172481049266368512/photo/1

I’m so sorry about your grandmother.

My grandfather died when I was ten. He was an incredibly sweet man, but he also kind of cranky and profane. It was endearing. I don’t necessarily have specific phrases that make me think of him, but whenever I watch a movie or something that doesn’t have a very clear, black-and-white message, I can hear him say “Now what in the hell kind of picture was that?!”. He was a fun grandpa.

My grandma passed away a few years ago, and she was a cranky lady too.  She was a serious community activist and most of the positions she held were unpaid.  However, she was committed to making public schools a great place to be educated and saving the community history of Bay View in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The summer she died she was the Grand Marshall for both the South Shore Water Frolics AND the Fourth of July parade.  She died just before the Fourth of July and my aunts rode in the horse drawn carriage with a picture of her hung on the side.  I cried my eyes out.  She was one of the greats.  And yet, the thing I remember her saying most was “Oh, baloney,” whenever she thought you were wrong.  Which was a lot.  And if you went too far, “bullshit.”  That was not a word she said a lot.  For someone as cranky and determined as she was, she was surprising ladylike.  Other major phrases?  “Wish in one hand and sh*t in the other and see which one fills up first.”  Also, “Never turn down free help.”  She believed in getting things done and volunteerism.  Totally awesome.

Also, like your grandmother she was SUPER pretty back in the day.  I hope you always think about how awesome your grandmother was, like I do about mine.  And I’m sorry for your loss.

My mom grew up there and her entire family STILL lives there.  My grandmother’s house (now owned and being remodeled by my aunt) is right around the corner from Groppi’s, and my Great-Uncle Tony used to own the Avalon Theater.  I was baptized at Immaculate Conception church, which is where my mom and all my aunts got married.  (I could go on, and on, and on….)  I still love visiting because it’s such a weird/cool town.  Also, the home of the Midwest hipsters.  Seriously.  I have never SEEN so many mustaches.

My great aunt passed away last year about this time; sometimes I forget and expect her to be at family events. It’s all very weird. You don’t expect a person who has ALWAYS been there to be gone one day even if you realistically know that death is inevitable.

One saying she had that I will always think fondly of – whenever she gave someone a gift she would say “Use it in the best of health!” It strikes me as being very cute. It’s not that she is giving you the ___ and wants to you use it but she wants you to be healthy while using it! It’s like a double well-wishing.

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