Saturday, December 01, 2007

Remembering Grammy

I lost my Grammy Fannie this week. When I couldn’t sleep that night, I told David “It doesn’t seem possible for Grammy to die.” She was a force of nature. Here is a collage of my memories of her.


Grammy didn’t drive. She just never learned how. But that didn’t stop her. When she visited us in California (she and Grandpa George spent half the year in Massachusetts, half in Florida, which I thought was very civilized) she walked everywhere, even to the supermarket, nearly a mile away. She would take my youngest sister in the stroller, and then push her and the groceries back up the incredibly steep hill. She was about 4’11” and had flaming red hair. I once asked her why her hair was red when “grandmas are supposed to have gray hair.” “It’s all thanks to Miss Clairol,” she told me. I had no idea who that was. I figured Miss Clairol was a friend of hers with magical powers.


Grammy spoiled me rotten. I was her oldest grandchild, after all. Anything I wanted, she got me. She was visiting when I turned 10 and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “A stereo,” I said, without hesitation. I had no idea why I’d said it, except that my next door neighbor, Kristy, had just gotten a stereo and it was the most extravagant thing I could think of. But even at 10 I knew it was an absurdly expensive piece of faux-teak furniture. I would never have mentioned it to anyone but Grammy. When I got home from school on my birthday, I could hear Neil Diamond belting “Beautiful Noise” from upstairs. The music got louder and louder as I approached my room. Inside was a brand new stereo, with a turntable, 8-track cassette and the biggest speakers I’d ever seen. I stared at it, marveling at the sound, and then whirled around to see Grammy and my mom standing in the doorway, grinning.


Grammy was not shy. She had her hip replaced in the early ‘90s and spent her recovery with my parents. I was home from grad school in Massachusetts on Winter Break and dating a local guy, Brian. He came to pick me up one day and met Grammy for the first time.

“It’s really nice to meet you,” he said when I introduced them. At first there was no response. No hello, nothing. And then:

“Turn around.”

“Excuse me?” said Brian, looking a little frightened.

“Turn around. I want to see something.” Slowly, darting his eyes toward me with a “help!” expression, Brian turned his back to Grammy.

“I thought so! You have no hair on the backs of your knees!”

“What?” Brian whispered.

“No hair on the backs of your knees, but otherwise your legs are covered with hair. Why is that?” I was mesmerized, and wouldn’t have known how to interject if I’d wanted to.

“Well…I think maybe it wears off from wearing pants?" He was wearing shorts at the time.

“Hmmm. It looks very odd.”

Brian and Grammy ended up becoming quite close. In fact, he looked after her when my parents went on vacation and I was back in school. Brian never said too much about it, but Grammy was not so restrained. “Brian’s a very sweet boy,” she told me, “but he has no idea how to make coffee.”


Grammy spoke her mind. She became sort of famous amongst my college friends when I displayed her postcards during mealtimes. One of my favorites said, “Dear Samantha, Your mother tells me you FAILED the law boards. Study hard, and PASS NEXT TIME!!!! Love, Grammy.” “Failed” was underlined twice. When David and I got married, Grammy sent a card saying she’d been waiting forever for me to get married, and now that I was finally doing it, she didn’t feel up to traveling. She enclosed an extremely generous check, with the following suggestion: “I don’t expect you to piss this away on bills—buy yourself something nice!”


I guess Grammy was what you might call “a character.” But that label doesn’t begin to hint at her fabulously forthright self. The last time I saw her was in Maine, where she was living in a condo near the beach. I stopped by with a couple of friends. She made us tea and snacks and regaled us with the shockingly torrid plot of the historical romance she was reading. “Your grandmother is awesome,” said my friend Beth on the drive home. “She’s so much more fun than the average grandmother.”

She was fun. And tough. But soft—I have this image of her letting my infant sister suck on her forearm for hours on end. “Why does she like to do that?” I asked her. “It’s comforting.” Grammy said. “Babies like to suck on things.” She was nurturing--I remember her hugging me when I’d had a hard day at school. And she was industrious--I remember sitting with her for hours, helping to fold the mountains of laundry our household produced, or sometimes just watching her and listening to her talk.

Even though I hadn’t seen her in a long time, I’m going to miss her. I miss her already.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sam,

I'm so sorry to hear about your Grammy. She sounds like a fantastic woman with lots of spirit. A big Texas hug is headed your way and I'll be thinking about you. See you in January.



Type (little) a aka Michele said...

Sorry about your Grammy. She sounds like someone I would like to know.

My sincere condolences.

Mary said...

Dear Sam,

I am so sorry to hear about your Grammy. I am sure she was very proud of you.

I love what you wrote about her.



David said...

I never got to meet Grammy Fannie, but of course a heard so many stories, and I'm sure there are many more I haven't heard (like Miss Clairol.) The Brian story always scarred into to thinking how would Grammy Fannie see me. Now I've lost that opportunity to find out. Yet Grammy Fannie features so strongly in Samantha's life and memories, she has indirectly become part of my life too.


Smitten Knitten said...


Grammy Fannie sounds like an extraordinary woman. I'm sure she would be proud of how lovingly you wrote of her here.

Much love and our deepest sympathy for your loss.

Jess & Yea Yea

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss and how fortunate you are to have had her. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful tribute.

Anonymous said...

I aspire to "Gramminess" for my granddaughters. What a beautiful word-portrait of a remarkable woman.

Best, Gail

Alleen said...

I'm sorry about Grammy.

My goodness, the stories you must have. What wonderful memories.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly the kind of grandmother I want to be when it is my turn. And, not a day sooner.

My sympathy to you and your family. What a tremendous loss.

Jennifer said...

Sorry to hear about the loss of your grammy. She sounds like one amazing woman! Thanks for sharing your stories.

Take care!