Today would have been my Great Grandma Jordan’s 100th birthday. She passed away on December 23rd last year – just a few months short of this landmark birthday. Some of my family will gather today to be together to celebrate Granny’s life and grieve her passing. We will be cooking some dishes that always remind us of her, and we’ll visit her gravesite to lay her favorite spring flowers. I am looking forward to this time to honor her life.
It is so easy to take someone’s presence in your life for granted. Grandma was always there. Even when I began to understand that she would obviously not be around forever, it was hard to realize just what that would mean. When I got married and moved a few hours away, I didn’t make an effort to see her as much as I should have. She was always there, and I was always assuring myself that we would get out to see her soon. The last time I saw her was one year ago – to celebrate her 99th birthday. I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive myself for not making the trip to see her at least one more time before she passed. My heart aches when I think of the opportunity I lost.
There are so many things that I learned from Grandma Jordan – so many things I wanted to say to her, but never found the right time. Thinking of her 100th birthday has made me think that perhaps I ought to put these thoughts down in words. So today I wanted to share these thoughts with you – the things I should have told her, but never did:
I loved your home. The dated furniture, old carpet, faded photographs, books with worn binding – these things all were dear to me. As a child I think they served as a sort of foundation – that no matter what else was going on in the world, your house would stay the same. As I have aged, they became tangible proof of the “Waste Not, Want Not” adage my Dad so frequently attributes to you. You lived through The Depression, and learned to not waste a single cent. I wish I could think that way, Grandma. Sometimes the desire to have more “stuff” is so overwhelming. I yearn to find contentment with the things that I have instead of desiring more/bigger/better things. Your small home filled with modest furnishings and decorations is such an example for me.
I loved the smell of your home too! If I close my eyes, I don’t have to try very hard to bring that smell back to mind. There’s something enchanting about the combination of old furniture, cooked food and I don’t even know what else! It was just YOU.
Thinking of that smell brings to mind the shade on your front porch, the feel of the doorknob as I turned it to open the door, the sound of the doorbell that we would ALWAYS ring (multiple times!) as we arrived. I can feel the rough woven fabric on your armchairs, and see the small parade of cactus plants on your windowsill. I loved watching birds with you from the kitchen table. I loved the small Dutch figurines peppering your bookshelves. I loved all the photos you had displayed throughout your house. I loved going out to the back yard garage and honking the horn on your old bike. I loved the peonies lining the driveway, and the hydrangeas against the back of the house. I loved it all, because these things all represented you.
I loved that you always had bubble gum waiting for us! Somehow it never occurred to me that you didn’t have bubble gum on hand for your own enjoyment. I can’t imagine that dentures allow you to chew the sugary, sticky stuff! I realize know that you intentionally bought bubble gum just for us. Such a small gesture, but it was an amazing treat for us. Thank you Grandma for doing this for us. I bought a package of grape bubble gum today, and I will think of you fondly as I chew it! I love that your gum was always stashed in an old Girl Scout Cookie tin. I wonder what ever happened to that thing? A few years ago I realized that I had put my personal gum stash in a Williams Sonoma Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix can that Matt and I had just emptied. It took me a few weeks to realize that I had unintentionally created my own gum tin, and I smiled thinking of yours. That has remained the home for my gum stash ever since.
I loved your sense of humor. You were always so good about making sly little jokes and laughing at others! You had a great smile, Grandma – I wish I could see it again. You had a way of smiling and gently nodding as we prattled on about one story or another – always laughing at the funny parts or showing concern at the bad. For a woman with terrible hearing, you were a great listener. I never felt that you would rather be talking to adults instead of us kids.
I loved the food that came out of your kitchen! Oh Grandma – if only you knew just how much we would fight over your Cherry Delight! The first time Kelly and I made it from the recipe you sent was like a small sisterly ceremony in my tiny apartment. We were making Cherry Delight! The pride that I felt that day was amazing. I remember the pizzas you would make in your small kitchen – how you always placed green olives on them, and how I didn’t think that was weird at all. The cookies and sweet treats that came from your oven – oh Grandma – it was all so good! You knew how to enjoy food and enjoy the fellowship that comes from the perfect combination of good eats and great family. I love the recipes that you passed on to me, and I love that your enjoyment of food and cooking has not been lost between generations.
Grandma, I loved that you were there with me when Uncle Barry baptized me. Coming to the Lord at the age of 16 was no easy task, and having you there was special to me. I will never forget that day.
Grandma, I’m so sorry that I never took the time to say these things to you. I hate that I never let you know just how special you were to me. You were such an important, foundational part of my life, and your influence will carry on even though you have left us. I’m not sure what life will look like for us as we move on without you. I’m sure we will continue to welcome new babies as we grow older. I’m sure we’ll continue to fight over that Cherry Delight. I’m sure we’ll continue to laugh at our memories of you waggling your dentures at us or jumping into our laps at picture time. I’m also sure that we will continue to remember you as a strong, caring woman who impacted our lives in very meaningful ways. Ninety-nine is a lot of years to live, and I am so thankful for the thirty that you spent as my Great Grandmother. I loved you so much Grandma. I hope you knew that.