My dad and uncle decided to bring in hospice nurses for my grandma today. She is my last living grandparent and by far the one I was/am closest to. She’s 96 years old and, really, has been living on borrowed time for awhile now. For all intents and purposes, my “grammy” (“Granny sounds old….”grammy” is a sweet treat..and an award, a MUCH better description of me!” she would say) has been gone for a very long time.
The last year or so that my Grandfather was alive (he died at 92 in 1996), she was starting to fade. Her mind, always a steel trap…wasn’t as lively as it had once been. She no longer stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching CSPAN. I knew it was really bad when she had no interest in the Presidential campaigns of 2000. My Grandmother was a hard core Democrat. She changed party affiliation during the time of Richard Nixon. She took the elephant charm off her charm bracelet and threw it in the ocean. It should be noted that my Grandfather became a Republican during the time of Richard Nixon. They were pretty much at odds as long as anyone can remember….but that’s just how they were. Seeing her not saying a darn thing about “W”–the former Governor of her former home state and the goings on of that campaign was when I knew she was gone.
My grandmother grew up the daughter of the town mortician/general store owner in a small town in Northern Indiana, deep in Amish country. She went to school at Indiana University in Bloomington where she was on the girl’s basketball team and rifle squad. She kept diaries from the time she was in JR. High until she was WELL into her 80s. I’m proud to say that I have the majority of those diaries, but have respected her wishes to not read them while she is alive.
She taught Kindergarten for decades and people in Niles or Cass County Michigan still remember her. She remembered most of their names also….for a VERY long time. Each Christmas she would pull out the Christmas gifts she had received from students and tell me who it was from and what they were like then and what they were doing last she had heard. She still receives cards from a few students each Christmas. She’s definitely the kind of lady who left an impression.
I spent the majority of the summer from the age of 6 to 13 with my grandparents on South Padre Island TX. It was a great way to grow up. Half a block from the beach when SPI was still a small town. My Grandma babysat at some of the condos (she always loved kids) and I would get to go with her. Every Monday, we did the laundry and the lady who owned the laundromat would bring us fresh baked pastries and give me tokens for the video games. Every Wednesday we went into Brownsville to go grocery shopping at H.E.B. (until they got one in Port Isabel….oh what a day that was!) Friday nights was Shrimp baskets at The Jetties where Luz was our waitress. Sunday was church, then breakfast at Panchos, then going home to read the San Antonio paper. They had a gossip section that my grandma would read and then throw down in disgust every week. One week I took it and read it first…thinking she would be glad to not have to read it. She almost called the paper carrier to get the section before she realized I had it.
We would play waitress for hours upon hours. I would go with her to volunteer at the Sea Turtle rescue. We would take day trips to Mexico where she knew all the vendors in the jewelry market. She would take me to the secluded beaches to get the best seashells. She knew some of the shimpers on the island as well as the mayor. She knew everyone!
That is a teeny tiny glimpse of the Bernice Marie Greenawalt Haley that I will always remember. A lady that I got to know more then any of my other cousins did. A woman who made the best christmas cookies. A woman who taught me Spanish by using bilingual playing cards to play “Slap Jack” The woman who taught me to cross stitch and crochet and to stand up for what I believe in, no matter what.
She’s not completely gone yet…but I can tell it’s just a matter of time. We’ve all been preparing for this for so long that I have no idea how we are going to take it. My dad, a true Mama’s boy, seems to be doing well. His brother, hard to say. My older cousins are pretty removed from things. My younger cousins never really knew her. So, in many ways, I will be alone in my grief. But I don’t know that I will relly grieve. I got the best she had to offer and will live the rest of my days being thankful for that.