Grandma’s funeral is today.
Due to many factors including time, distance, and money, I won’t be able to attend the service.
I’ve spent a great deal of the last week trying to put into words how much she meant to me. When Grandpa passed away, my Uncle and I performed a eulogy each. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. To memorialize a loved one in a few words, in front of your own family, it’s not an easy task. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to come up with the right words for Grandma. Since I’m not able to attend the funeral, I wrote a letter to be put in with her ashes at the mausoleum. I had designs to share it on here, but I’ve decided to keep it private for the time being.
My sister pointed out something that I had never really thought about:
We were lucky enough to grow up at our Grandma and Grandpa’s table.
Family holidays were always spent there. Birthdays, Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmas. Every Saturday, the whole family visited. After groceries, we’d all head over and make sandwiches. Then, my cousins, sister, and I would all play, while my parents, aunts, and uncles chatted the afternoon away. Their house was the most convenient for everyone to get to. Not to mention it was also big enough. We could have gone elsewhere, the occasional birthday was held at our house, or an aunt and uncle’s. There was just something that made perfect sense about their home.
I realized thinking about this, that I may have taken it for granted growing up. So many people come from smaller or fractured families. Others never even had the chance to know their grandparents. A lot of the memories I have of my family just seemed so natural and routine, that I never stopped to think about how lucky I truly was to grow up around a full, loving family. Even in her passing, Grandma is teaching me something new about love. This was one trait that shone so brightly about her. Everything I’ve learned about love, forgiveness, and devotion, started with her. She probably didn’t know what a good teacher she was, she was just going about her day the way she thought was right.
Other things about my Grandma:
- She was sloppy (a family trait). Typically a visit to Grandma involved her changing her blouse at least twice.
- She was genuinely interested in your day. Even if you had had the most mundane, boring, uneventful day. She wanted to hear about it.
- She never had a shortage of Coke (diet and regular). I was thought this was strange growing up in a French household with Coke, when Pepsi is the dominant Francophone drink of choice.
- She always left her front door unlocked. That way family and friends could come and go as they pleased. Her door was always opened. This changed later in life when a stranger walked in (with a bicycle). He had meant no harm, just had found the wrong house.
- She loved ketchup chips. In fact, she loved ketchup period. She would often make ketchup sandwiches.
These are just a few things. I have so many memories. As I’ve been going over them in my head, trying to find the right words to write about her, one stands out. It involves Grandpa too.
Grandma wasn’t necessarily the healthiest eater. The aforementioned ketchup sandwiches might be a dead giveaway. It’s not like she couldn’t cook. She was adept in the kitchen, Grandpa as well. I think as they got older, they just didn’t feel the effort was worth it for just the two of them. They took care of my Great-Grandmother who lived next store, and it obviously took a long-term toll on them. In high school I would make it a point to visit as often as possible. This is where I got my first experiences cooking meals by myself. I had to eat, and I was more than happy to cook for Grandma and Grandpa. After all, it had to be better than the ketchup sandwiches!
They always bought simple foods. Chicken, hot dogs, sandwich meats, french fries. There were no culinary masterpieces being cooked. Just simple meat and potatoes, homie food. It helped re-enforce the sense of home, comfort, and warmth that was created in their house. Every once in awhile, Grandma would ask me if she could pick something up that I liked. I usually declined, unless it was a different spin on something she was going to buy anyhow. About the fanciest things ever got, was the rare time once in awhile Grandpa would order a pizza. That changed one day.
I went over on a Monday after school. It was late spring so it was just starting to warm up. I hadn’t seen them all weekend as I had had plans. When I walked in the door, Grandma was happier than usual to see me.
“I got something for you at the store.”
She scurried off to the kitchen and pulled something out of the pantry cupboard: an Old El Paso Taco kit. I’m not sure if I had ever mentioned tacos to Grandma. It certainly wasn’t something that would be in the realm of normal groceries for her. Either way, she had grabbed a box thinking of me.
“Will you make this tonight? We’ve never had tacos before.”
I had my doubts at first about how well it would go over. It wasn’t exactly the flavour profile I would imagine Grandma liking. She liked her food fairly plain. As for Grandpa, he’d started his radiation treatments, and keeping food down was a problem for him. Nonetheless, as I browned and seasoned the meat, Grandma chopped up tomatoes and lettuce for toppings. Then we grated some cheese. I warmed the shells in the oven, and then explained to them how tacos worked. It’s funny in retrospect, “explaining how tacos worked”. It was just the three of us, but there was an overwhelming sense of family in me at the time. Just the nature of the “build-it yourself” meal. It brought me back to family feasts where everyone would build their own custom plates from the pot-luck in front of us.
I love tacos. All kinds. Even as I’ve grown out of the taco kits of my youth into more flavourful options, I’ll never turn one down. I’ve been known to have a whole kit to myself. I half expected this to happen again. Grandma wasn’t a big eater, and with Grandpa being sick, I figured there would be plenty leftover. By the time I was done my first plate though, they were both halfway through their seconds. It was fun to watch them enjoy something so foreign to them as much as they were. Grandma would later say that it was the first thing Grandpa had enjoyed in almost a week.
My memories of Grandma and Grandpa are simple. They don’t involve wild stories, grandiose vacations, or comedic tales of senility. Just simple things. Like how Grandma would always use her socks to wipe up spills. How Grandpa would hover over me every time I was cooking, reminding me that I was “going to burn it”. Or how they would bicker back and forth over such silly things, and you could tell by the tone in their voices that they really loved each other.
Tacos and how even though we weren’t a family of money, I feel like the richest person alive because of the love I was afforded growing up.
I love you Grandma and Grandpa. I’m glad you are both together again. I’ll be looking forward to a frosty mug of Coke, and a game of Rummy 500 when we meet again.