This is a tribute to my Grandmother and the influence she had on my life.
| It’s October 1, 1996 and I’m in a hospital room visiting with my Grandmother. I’m 7 months pregnant and insisting this baby better be a girl. She’s lecturing me for the millionth time that God will give me what he wants me to have. We're laughing and enjoying each others' company. But then we always did.
My Uncle Jerry came in to speak to her. He told her he needed to discuss a few things with her. I stood up to leave but he asked me to stay. He began to tell her it was becoming harder for his mom to care for her. So after she got out of the hospital this time, she’d have to go into a nursing home.
I'll never forget the look on her face when she heard the words nursing home. It broke my heart. He told her it would be the best thing for her. One of her granddaughters worked at the nursing home and would be there with her everyday. He looked to me to help convince her but I didn’t say anything. My Grandmother agreed but I think she did that to avoid an argument.
I knew in that moment that she wouldn’t be leaving this hospital alive. I knew she wouldn't allow them put her in one of those places. She’d already lost her independence because of her health. She'd already been taken out of her home because she could no longer live alone.
My Grandmother was one of the most independent women I ever knew. Now she had to depend on others to help care for her. She had to depend on others to make sure she had her dialysis treatments. Without them she’d slip into a coma and die. But being put into a nursing home would be the ultimate insult. I went home that night and prepared myself for the phone call from the hospital. When we arrived at home that evening our phone rang. It was my mother telling me to come back to the hospital as soon as possible. We rested a bit and drove the hour back to San Antonio.
She had requested that her dialysis treatments be stopped. It was her way of taking back some control over her life. In less than twenty four hours she slipped into a coma. All that was left to do was wait. I slept in the waiting room. I left once only to get some lunch. But during lunch I had a feeling I should get back to her. I went directly to her room when we returned from lunch. As I stepped into the doorway I saw the nurse holding her wrist. And then I heard her say she’d passed away. Everyone in the room, except for me, started to cry.
I calmly walked over to her bedside. She was independent to the end. I admired the courage it took to make the decision she'd made. I don't think I could have done it. I was going to miss being able to see her. But, I have so many memories of our times together. She didn’t really leave me.
I stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, thanked her, told her I loved her and said goodbye. Now I had to comfort my mother and sisters. Everyone was more worried about me. Especially because I was pregnant and because of how close I was to her. Where I got the strength I couldn’t tell you. It had to be coming from my Grandmother.
When she started getting sick too often, I quit my job in Virginia and moved back home to be near her. I should have been falling apart. She was one of the most important people in my life. It all goes back to when I was a little girl.
I know we all have grandmothers. And we all think ours is the most special one ever to step foot on earth. Well, mine actually was the most special one to ever step foot on earth. From the day I born, yes I remember that far back, she treated me as if I were a precious piece of glass.
Growing up around her I came to realize that she had definite thoughts of what it meant to be a proper young lady. A young lady was quiet, polite and usually in a dress. Hair in a bow or a ponytail tied off with a ribbon. That's why my sisters didn't like spending time at her house. When we visited her, I always made sure to wear a dress. My sisters never understood why I did that. It’s what would make her happy and it was a small sacrifice to make. I loved it! She and I would dress up and go downtown. She’d buy me a new dress and we’d have lunch at Woolworth's.
I would never have a birthday without her. I would always ask my dad to go pick up Grandma and bring her to my party. When my son had his birthday party I asked my dad to pick up Grandma and bring her to his party. That day I delighted in watching her watch my son. I knew my time with her was growing short and so I rarely left her side.
She used to live with one of my uncles. I loved them both. The two of them made me feel special. He and I used to sit in his baby blue Chevy and I’d pretend to drive. Mostly we'd sit in the car and listen to music or a baseball game on the radio. When it was time for me to go home, he would sneak money to me behind his back.
I remember the three of us were always laughing. They delighted in everything I ever had to say. I used to ask them why the pecans fell all over the yard and not in one place. Gathering them would be so much easier if they would. If I threw bread to the birds in the rain would they like if it got wet and mushy? I wondered because I hated when cake and ice cream were on the same plate. The ice cream could get on the cake and make it mushy. That's just gross. She’d always serve me cake and ice cream on separate plates after that. To this day I still insist on my cake and ice cream being on separate plates.
My uncle became ill and had to have both legs amputated. My Grandmother had taught me that it's not important what someone looks like. What's important is who they are inside. So I barely noticed that his legs were missing. But watching her care for him showed me the strength she possessed. But she also showed me that everyone has to know their limitations.
Everyone was telling her that he should be in a nursing home. She believed that family cared for family. That you didn't hand someone over when things got a little too hard. But she wasn't as young as she used to be. And she had very litte help. If I spent the weekend I'd help. But she cared for him without ever complaining.
But eventually it did get too hard for her. She had to make that choice and it was the hardest thing for her to do. She thought of him first and made the best choice for him. Not the one that would make her life easier. She always put others before herself. I do that too.
After my uncle died it was just her and me. I would spend the weekend with her as often as I could. My brother and sister didn't like being at my Grandmother's house very much because it was too quiet. We were a family of four and I liked the calm and quiet of her house. And even though I was the oldest, I still got lost in everyone else’s shadow. But she had a way of making me feel that I mattered. That I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t to be noticed.
I’ll never forget her bed either. It was set up high off the floor. You needed a stool to get on it. She would let me run and jump up on it. Sometimes I even made it. On Sundays she'd wake at 6 AM for church. If I was awake she’d take me with her. If not she’d let me sleep. When I did go with her I wore my best dress and a veil. She loved to hear me sing along in church. Afterwards, we’d get something from the church bake sale.
I learned to like my own company and enjoy the simple things life had to offer. I would entertain myself by simply sitting on the steps feeding the birds. Summers, I'd wait on the back porch for the ice cream man. Those were the days when the ice cream trucks came equipped to make a real ice cream cone or even a banana split.
Christmas time was always the best. She always had a tree and she would wait until I spent a weekend to do the trimming. She had those old bubble lights, when they used to be made of glass and had more than six lights to a strand. I loved to sit and watch them.
But if one thing stands out in my memory, it had to be her cooking. She was the best cook and she always made my favorites. I don’t know how you can make scrambled eggs taste like heaven but she could. My cooking doesn't even come close.
Fast forward to my high school years. As we get older we get busier. We start spending more time with friends and less with family. But no matter how old or busy I’d get, I always found time for her. I made sure to never forget a birthday or a Mother’s day. In my last year of high school I was in a co-op program. I worked in the afternoon at Ft. Sam Houston. My aunt, who lived next door to my Grandmother, also worked at Ft. Sam Houston. She would take me to my Grandmother’s house after work. I waited for my dad to pick me up there.
When I’d step out of my aunt’s car the first thing that would hit me is the smell of food. As I stepped into the house on the table would be a single place setting. It was there for me. I’d put my school books down on the chair next the door and took my seat. No matter how old I’d get she always had a way of making me feel like a little girl. My teenage years weren’t some of my happiest but those moments spent with her made up for them.
Dinner would always start with a healthy salad. I don’t know what she used for the dressing but it was the best dressing I’ve ever had in my life. Dinner could be anything from barbeque ribs, chicken, hamburgers or enchiladas. But it was always one of my favorites. She’d sit with me and we’d talk about our day. After dinner I’d help with the dishes. After that I’d grab a cookie from the cookie jar. As long I can remember she always had Keebler Grasshopper cookies in the house. They were my absolute favorite.
After dinner we’d go into the living room and watch TV. Something else would happen there that didn’t happen anywhere else. I can’t sleep during the day. So basically unless I’m sick I can’t take naps. Well, the only place I could fall asleep during the day was at her house. My dad always had to wake me when he’d arrive to pick me up. I always felt safe and secure at her house. Nothing or no one could ever hurt me there. It was like being wrapped up in a warm blanket in the winter time.
No one influenced me the way she did. I never realized that I had picked up some of her same mannerisms. I open my gifts the same way she did. She would very carefully remove the tape so as not to tear the paper. I do the same thing. It takes me forever to unwrap a present. That’s why most of my gifts now come in bags instead. My wardrobe consists of skirts and dresses. I don’t own a single pair of jeans or slacks. I still love to sit out on the steps and feed the birds.
The only thing I can’t do is have her meet her great-granddaughter. She was born a month to the day after my Grandmother passed away. But in a way I think she was there the day my daughter was born. My parents were going to leave early that morning for San Antonio to leave flowers at her grave. But my dad had had car trouble the night before so they were leaving later that day.
That same morning I woke up and my water broke. My parents weren't leaving now. My mother had to be with me at the hospital. If they hadn’t had car trouble she would have missed seeing her granddaughter being born. I’m convinced to this day that my Grandmother had a hand in making sure my mother would be there for me that day.
I can see my Grandmother in my daughter. She has the same independent streak as well as her name - Felicitas. When she gets older I’ll tell her all about her Great-Grandmother. I’ll try to instill the same values she instilled in me. My daughter is a bit more of a tomboy than I was allowed to be but then that’s what made me who I am. It’s what will make her who she is too. It’s part of the most important lesson my Grandmother taught me. It’s okay to be yourself and if people don’t like you for who you are - as long as you do - it’s all that matters. Because the most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves.
So when I forget that, I need to only look to a single place setting. A place setting that today sits in my china cabinet. While everyone else was hunting for riches among her valuables. A single place setting from a set of every day dishes was the only thing I asked to have. To me they held more value than the finest china she owned. When I look at them I relive those memories. I remember that for a little while, I was lucky enough to have a little piece of heaven here on earth. But I’d give anything to have her back for just one day.
I love you, I thank you and I'll always miss you Grandma. But I will never forget you.