Sep 5, 2010

My grandma's portulacas

My grandmother was the best grandmother in the whole world.  (I'm sure yours is/was wonderful too, but really - mine was the best.)  This unflappable, indefatigable woman could turn a bare pantry into a hearty meal for droves of road-weary adult children and their spouses, plus ravenous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She did it with a smile because she loved her family and nothing gave her greater joy than to have us all under her roof.  (I suspect she also relished the peace and quiet after shooing us all out after a long holiday, though.)

She had a quick, dry sense of humor, and sometimes you'd have to think about what she said in order to get the joke, but she'd wait for you to catch up to her, always with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

Her life was modest.  She was a wife and mother to seven children, raising them in a two-bedroom house.  She survived the Depression and the infamous Dust Bowl.  She worked as a cook for a while, but most of her life was spent tending her home and family.  She buried two of her sons: her youngest and then her oldest.  Those losses exacted a toll on her, but somehow she endured and found a peace that passes understanding.

She was a gardener.  She grew vegetables out of necessity and flowers for herself;  gladiolas that she carefully dug and stored each year to protect them from the brutal Midwestern winters.  And each year, she planted portulaca, which have the sunniest flowers ever.  This summer I planted an old canning kettle with these pink portulacas and they've cheerfully bloomed all summer, with little care or encouragement from me.  I can't pass by the garden without smiling at these tough, resilient plants that my grandmother had such a fondness for.

My grandmother had a stroke in the summer of 1992, and on September 5 of that year, she went home.  I am so grateful I had an opportunity to see her on her last birthday.  My parents and my family converged on her and my grandpa's house in late March.  I gave her and my dad each an 'Eden' rose bush as birthday gifts, and planted a third one in my garden.

I deeply regret that I let so many opportunities to write, call or visit her pass by.  I was busy being a young wife and mother, but she could have taught me a lot about life and motherhood, had I taken the time to seek her wise counsel.

If you still have your grandmother with you, cherish her.  Ask her to tell you the stories you've heard a hundred times.  Make new memories with her.  If you're like me and your grandmother is gone, I hope you look for her when you see her favorite things.  She'll be there.