She's not actually MY grandma, she's Matt's. But she made me feel like I was one of her grandchildren. Here I am, thinking about her as she takes some of her last breaths.
I met Grandma Bea while Matt and I were dating. She called me Jennifer the first few times we met but just the first few times. I soon came to know what a kind and generous woman she is.
She was very generous with Matt and me from the start. While we were engaged I found myself with out a place to live. My family was in transition and we were scattered around. She opened her doors to me. I stayed with her for a month or two until we found our first little place a few days before we wed.
She asked me about my plans for the cake and cake top. I had been looking for a Precious Moments statue with the groom holding the bride. I had seen it years before and had it in mind to match the design of the cake we had chosen. I couldn't find it anywhere. I wasn't too concerned because the cake topper wasn't going to make or break The Day. One day shortly after our conversation, she came to me with the statue. The exact one. I slowly learned that she was like this with each of her grandchildren.
Grandma Bea enjoyed her 80th birthday a few days after Matt and I were married. We missed the party because of our honeymoon. Grandma was very understanding.
Five months after Matt and I were married we found ourselves needing a new place to live. It had been so hard to find the little one-bedroom apartment we had, but the Rules of the complex were only two people per bedroom. We had a honeymoon baby on the way so we needed to get out before he was born. Grandma called Matt and invited us to stay in the front unit of her duplex. She let us live there for $1,000 a month when she easily could have gotten $2,000 per month at that time. It was a bright happy place that we loved. The perfect place to bring home baby, a baby boy who got his name from Grandma Bea's second husband, Sam Bradshaw. We really liked being her neighbors. Grandma lived in the back unit of the duplex. We shared meals, chores and laughs.
One spring day she had Matt and I digging in the front yard. She had removed some rose bushes earlier that year, but they kept sprouting up. We were charged with the task of digging out the remaining roots. Grandma warned us, "Those roots grow down to the devil!" We did our best, and that's all she asked.
Grandma Bea was one of the hardest working people I knew. She kept her own house, with very high standards. I arrived home from work one day to hear a strange and repetitive noise coming from the breeze way between the garage and her unit. I went to investigate and found our 80 year old grandma on the business side of a push broom. She wasn't just sweeping. She was vigorously brushing the walk with the push broom in short, fast motions that made me very nervous. I took over the job for her thinking she could relax for a bit. Nope, she marched energetically into the house and made us some lemonade to enjoy when the job was done.
And she could be fiesty. On an occasion when there was a problem with the air conditioner I heard her on the phone with the repair man. She said, "My name may be Bea but I am mad as a Hornet!"
Also at this time she was taking 2-4 mile walks everyday. She took excellent care of herself. Her beautiful, white hair was always coiffed and perfect, not a hair out of place. Her clothes were always clean and pressed. She took super good care of everything in her possession, including her family.
About four or five years ago she moved to Utah, as had we a few years before her. I got the opportunity to be Grandma's helper. Sam and I would make a short trip to her place two or three times a week. I'd help her get ready for the day and collect her laundry. Then she would take us out to lunch. I learned so much about her, her family and her childhood while on these little lunch dates. All about her mother and siblings, and her father who died at a young age trying to save some of his co-workers. All about her husband, Grant, who was orphaned at a young age but took care of his brother. I could feel her sense of accomplishment as she told me of all the hard work she did as a young mother who's husband was in the service and away from her and her little Gary for a while. She and Grant worked hard together, taking care of their home, family and rental properties that they did everything for, including taking out the trash, doing the yard work and keeping the windows sparkling clean. She liked to talk about the work they did together.
Her sister Lita would come to California and stay with them sometimes. Grandma seemed heartbroken when she would tell me about the day Lita died as a very young girl in a car accident. It was clear, Grandma still missed Lita.
She told me of her fabulous travels with her second husband, Sam. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of him. He made her feel like a queen.
I took care of Grandma at a time when I needed a friend. She was my friend. She always spoke kindly to me, even though I know I didn't take care of her clothes with the same perfection she would have, and I was a clumsy helper. Our dates lasted about a year and then she had a fall and needed more than I could give her. I'm grateful for that time we had together.
As I think of her passing, and all the people waiting for her, I can't help but feel happy for her. And them. They have waited a long time to be with her again. Last night as the family gathered around her she thanked us, when it was us who were feeling grateful for her. She told us she had a lot of people who had loved her. She was right. She told us they were planning a party for when she gets home. We know they are. And I can't help but think she will be that party planner when it is our time. She'll probably make a chocolate beet cake and root beer floats.
I love you, Grandma Bea.