Queenie was my pet name for Grams. At 97 years old, she deserved to be treated like a queen. Tiny in stature, sound of mind, and a pip to boot, she was regal in bearing if not by actual bloodline. I met her almost 15 years ago when I was invited to celebrate Easter with the family by her granddaughter. With the exception of a few Thanksgivings and a couple of Christmases, I spent every holiday, birthday and celebration since that first Easter hanging out with them. Every celebration involved a lot of food, many gifts, and a lot of laughter. During the summer months, the celebrations were poolside, with Grams in one of the lounge chairs. When it got colder, we’d sit around the dining room table and have a cup of the hot stuff; tea for me and coffee for her. While the dining seats were never assigned, we all seemed to be comfortable in an arranged seat, and my seat was next to Grams. She always sat to my right and I would make sure she had a taste of everything available. With seconds if she desired.
She lived on her own in a quaint trailer on a corner lot in a mobile home park until she was 96. It was filled with antique furniture, dancing lady figurines depicting life in the 1800s, and hand knitted afghans. She spent her days gardening, watching soaps and playing cards at the senior center. She shared her trailer with feisty birds who had a few things to say.
In the early years, the time after dinner was spent with a deck or two of cards, playing whatever game was the current favorite. Grams was as sharp as a tack and with a poker face that revealed nothing, and getting the upper hand on her was almost as important as winning the game. I even had a celebratory “I beat Grams” dance! My mom would admonish me to “respect my elders” and be nice to Grams, but I know Grams liked the competition.
A few years ago, she knitted me a beautiful afghan for my bed. It’s a lovely pale yellow and rests at the foot of my bed. I use it only occasionally so it will not be ruined. And, a couple months back, I bought an antique table that was hers after she moved out of her home. She was glad it was going to a good home!
I saw her last the week before Thanksgiving. When I was leaving for the evening, she was sitting in her room, watching The Godfather trilogy with her feet propped up, a blanket on her lap and a hot cup of coffee in her hand.
She died last weekend, after a short illness. She drifted on peacefully in her sleep, leaving this world with the same dignity that she lived it. She wasn’t my grandmother, but she was my friend and I’ll miss her.
You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.