She passed away on June 14th, 2011 and as special way of remembering her, I wanted to pay tribute to her on that day this year by writing about her. Well, My Main Squeeze had to go and ruin that by doing this on June 14th:
After a (happy) tear-filled half hour or so of holy-crap-we’re-engaged-moments, My Main Squeeze managed to tell me that the diamond in my engagement ring is actually from his grandmother’s engagement ring. To which I replied with, I’m sure, a very memorable garble of emotions and more tears and more garble and more tears… Hey, I never said I was eloquent.
Once I wiped away more tears, I managed to tell him that this day was already so sentimental to me because it was a year ago that I lost my grandmother and to have today not be marked with tears of sadness, but with tears of joy upon our engagement and to be wearing such a special sentiment from his grandmother…it was one of those full circle moments. A moment in your life that serendipity, coincidence and good fortune all collide together at once. It was a silent pat on the back and reminder that it all makes sense.
Once My Main Squeeze realized the relevance of this day and knowing how much my grandmother meant to me, how much his grandmother means to me and how special this moment was all together, he said, “Well, duh. I totally planned it like that…”
So, let me tell you about my Grandma.
She died at 91 years old and let me tell you, she wore her sassy-pants everyday. Every. day. Sometimes that sassiness got her into trouble, but mostly it gave everyone a great story to tell. Even near the end, one of her hospice care-takers told me that he wasn’t supposed to tell me this but, “She was my favorite.” She always had a way of making him laugh. It was those sassy-pants, I tell ya’.
Most people called her, Dolly. But that wasn’t her name. You see, she was such a pretty baby that her older sisters thought she looked like a dolly…and it stuck. Why couldn’t my older sister call me, “Princess”…? Us grandkids called her, “Mom-mom”. I have no idea why. I blame my older sister, naturally. It was pronounced, “Mum-mum”…like what British lads call their mom – “mum”.
Speaking of, you can blame my sassy Mom-mom for giving me my love of all things British…and all things Royal Family. She used to be a hairstylist and when I was little we used to go to her shoppe in the basement, where all the ladies used to get their hair done and read every People magazine ever printed about Princess Diana and Prince Charles. My grandma would tell me how cold and callous that mean Prince Charles seemed. She’s the one who told me Prince William was around my age and got my wheels spinning… It wasn’t his dashing good looks or royal status, it was my grandmother who forced me to like him!
She spoke so passionately about her travels that you couldn’t help but want to travel the world and see. every. single. thing. she. had. seen. She had piles of albums and pictures of her in every corner of the world. Piles. “It’s your duty to see and know what’s going on in the world, otherwise you don’t deserve to have an opinion.” I was accepted into the People to People Student Ambassador program as a teenager and had the opportunity to go to the UK and Ireland for three weeks! I had worked my tail off, saved and raised as much money as I could for that trip. But, in the end, I was a bit short. (Read: more than a “bit”) My grandma heard and cut me a check and told me to enjoy myself. It was probably her lame attempt to get me to find Prince William… But, needless to say, without that trip I would not have the passion that I have today for traveling.
Her love of history was contagous and if my father and myself are any evidence, it’s hereditary as well. She could talk for hours about the events that took place hundreds of years ago around where she lived, about how the first woman in the area who drove a stagecoach was related to us and how exactly the English used a fox-hound in fox hunts during the fall.
I’m not sure about you, but my parents were always pretty quiet about their political affiliations. I always knew my grandma was quite passionate about politics, though. I actually didn’t realize her party affiliation until I was older because it never came across as partisan to me. I just knew that at any level: township, city or state — my grandma was involved. I remember as an adult, going through a giant envelope filled with tons of buttons from presidential elections from Nixon to Reagan to (H.W.) Bush — she was, obviously, a card-carrying Republican. Some political opinions in our family don’t fall in line with each other (makes for a super fun and awkward Thanksgiving dinner) and I remember one particular time that people (perhaps me) started stirring the political pot around the kitchen. My grandma quickly stopped the chatter and asked if any of us had volunteered at a polling precinct or licked envelopes at campaign headquarters. “Voting is great, but until you start at that the grassroots level and involve yourself with the cause you’re arguing about, you’re not helping to change much.” I remember being very proud to call myself her granddaughter that night. She also grabbed my hand the Christmas after Obama was elected and told me how neat she thought it was that he won.
My grandma spent most of her 91 years in a beautiful area of Pennsylvania that some people affectionally call “Amish-ville”. And no, we aren’t Amish. Could you imagine? A blogging Amish-girl? That could be awkward… Her and my (deceased) Grandad built a house on a hill that overlooked their many acres of land. It was a place of respite for us Peterson kids. In the many moves we made as children and amid the turmoil of our parents divorce, that place remained the same. It was a saving grace of sorts in our ever-changing, ever-anxious world. We could come there and be ourselves, regardless of age. You can be as alone as you wanted there. Even today that place still looks (and smells) the same. Have you ever had a hard time falling asleep so you picture the most perfect, serene place you’ve ever been? THAT’S what I picture.
Even when it started becoming obvious that my grandma’s age was becoming detrimental to her living alone, she refused to leave her house. Her farm. Her little piece of the world. And much to my father’s dismay, she was unwilling to even consider a nursing home. That was her home and she was staying. My father obliged her wishes (demands) and arranged her assisted living at the house so she could stay on her farm until her dying day.
That day came early in the morning on June 14th, 2011.
During her funeral I was overwhelmed with how much she had taught me and how much I was like her. It’s a shame those things didn’t become vividly clear to me until her death. She had given me so much to take with me on my journey through life.
Including my sassy-pants.
I will be wearing those hereditary sassy-pants everyday. Just for you, Mom-mom.