Wednesday, April 1, 2009


This is my Grandma, Virginia Chambers..."cookie" to her co-workers where she worked for a zillion years. She is the glue that holds our family together. All she has ever wanted was for us to be together. Now if you ask us that is a little toooo much togetherness but that's a "just Grandma" thing. She worries obsessively about things that would never in any reality happen but that is "just Grandma".
She is a very strong women. She got married because she wanted a family. She certainly never needed a husband which turned out ok because her turned out to be an alcoholic who took off and left her to raise two daughters all alone -one of which was blind (my namesake- Sandy Luann) and the other was my mother (a whole different set of challenges raising little Karen Lea). She told me once that it wasn't until she filed for her Social Security benefits that she even knew she was legally married. I guess "back in the day" you used to be able to get your marriage license at a gas station?! She never really knew (or cared to be honest) if her marriage was legal but as it turns out she was and even though her husband left her decades before they never divorced and she never had anyone else in her life but her family.
She buried a daughter.
When my Aunt Sandy was 17 she died and then she and my mom were alone. She had 10 siblings and I think there is just 1 or 2 left. They all had weird nicknames....Potty, Hippy, she was Skillet cuz she loved to cook. She had 2 brothers who drowned in the Des Moines river and she passed on her fear of water to me as a child so I never learned to swim.
My Grandma used to travel all the time. She would take those planned trips with a travel buddy and went all over the US on a bus. Loved those bus tours. She lived her life very independently and as a kid took me everywhere with her. I remember what a treat it was to spend the night with her. She used to live on Story street (the main street in my home town) above the JC Penny store and to my child's mind it was as good as a penthouse. It was soooo cool to look out her window and see all the high school kids "cruisin the loop"downtown. Oh, and went we went out to eat (which was her passion) I was always so proud when she let me take the money to the front register to pay.
My Grandma did everything for me. Bought me "warm jackets that will cover your butt" and made sure I had my "Annie" style haircut and perm after school got out every year in the basement of Spurgeon's. She would take me out with her friends (she never learned to drive) and we would go all over the state to the best truck stops...cuz truck stops have the best pie. I never developed her love of pie I must admit but I have had a truckload of greasy burgers and if I wasn't hungry she would tap my plate and say "eat the meat, leave the bread but eat the meat". Wow, Granny was down with Atkins way ahead of her time.
Grandma is a master at laundry. There is such a thing called "the Grandma smell" and I could smell it even now if I close my eyes and take myself back. It is nearly impossible to describe except as what I have to believe is what heaven smells like- certainly what my childhood smells like. Many have tried to replicate the grandma smell and all have failed....even using the exact same combo of ingredients. Somehow when she did was just different. She bought tons of stuff at "rummage" sales and to come over on Sunday -wash day- and smell all the piles of freshly washed grandma smelling clothes made it not so bad to be wearing other people's cast offs. I would do anything to have bottled that grandma smell...if we could have we'd all be stinking rich.
I love and respect my Grandma deeply and today is her birthday- April Fool's Day. I remember being an idiot kid and running up to her yelling "hey Grandma, guess what? Happy Birthday....April Fools!!" and nearly choking myself with laughter. Silly....
Well today is her day and she is 93. When she was 71 I was 17 (the age her daughter was when she died) and I always felt like that meant something. Not sure what but it was a nice connection to have with her.
She isn't doing well....
And at 93 all we want is for her to be comfortable.
But I am so selfish. I don't want her to go and I want to see her again. I want her to be there waiting for me when I come home in July. I want her to see my progress...she is worried I am not being healthy (told you she is a big worry-er) so I want her to see I am ok. I want her to be around forever but I know she isn't living now at least not in the way she wants. She is existing and her quality of life is not what she wants at all. I want her to be at peace and comfortable and for her to do what she needs to do when she needs to do it.
My Grandma is special and beautiful and I hope she knows and feels that with every fiber of her being and that she knows as I sit here typing my whole heart is with her now and always.
I love my Grandma...but I am selfish. I hope she can forgive me for that and be stronger than I am and lets whatever is supposed to happen...just happen.
I love her enough for that and for many more lifetimes to come....

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