There was an argument in my head over the stone that was, in my mind thoughtlessly placed on her grave. Her son, my father, had chosen dice to put on the stone. It was, I suppose reflective of the way he viewed things. But I couldn't help thinking it looked like gram was a gambler or crapshooter.
The Grandma I knew was 20 to 30 years older than I am now. What I remember are her wrinkly pudgy fingers dirty from working in the garden cleaning up a collander full of green beans. I remember goats milk yogurt drunk with trepidation and secretly enjoyed for its milky sweetness with strawberries. I remember the glasses of wine, the endless games with the backgammon board and the John Deere tractor which she rode all over her property as she kept things clean. Chicken coops that seemed mysterious and ordinary all at once. Chicken wire which I clung too as a toddler and the creek with all its multicolored stones at the bottom.
And now I see other things too, my own love for gardening as its own escape. I see the farmers my family were. I see what a farmer is, someone who doesn't give up easily, knows the entire landscape of human emotion by glaring it in the eye with each waking day's coffee, or crawling into ones pillow at night.
I remember the smells, oh the smells of her farm house. Strongest of cats, then some indescribable earthy smells, fire smoke, hard water, dirt and bacon.
More recently I remember trying to build friendships at a university, in a ladies group starting off by describing their grandmothers. By the time the 5th girl described her grandmother, I was wishing I could either slowly be swallowed by my easy chair. I also wondered how conspicuous I would be if I ran out. I considered lying. Not out of shame, mind you, more of feeling like I had fallen in with a group of fine young ladies whose grandma's were worlds apart from my own. I didn't want to stick out, but I didn't want to lie, either.
Their grandmothers reminding them to keep their knees together in church by saying "Close your bible book!" contrasted sharply with my sweet granny who was scolded by a pastor for not wearing dresses to their small town church. I don't believe she owned a dress. To say nothing of him asking her not to come back till she quit smoking.
Or the time she ran her car into the smoke shack.
Or I could have told them, in retrospect about how grandma started following Christ when she was about 80. Or that she lived in the South Pacific with her family for a time. Or about the owls around her house.
One must mention her raising 4 kids, as well as 2 of her grandchildren. I can only imagine as an only child, it wasn't what she had anticipated.
Their grandmothers with lacy aprons baking something light and fluffy and scrumptious, mine with hands in the soil and cooking. I do think of her really as a very rustic Martha Stewart, actually.
I wish I could catalog all the stories of grandma, because they are wonderful. She was a true character. In her latest years she never stopped, receiving awards for her letter writing campaigns to begin veteran's history projects and revamping forgotten sacred lands.
I remember kissing her felt just like I imagined kissing Yoda would be like. Sorry gram, but each one of those kisses I anticipated such.
And when my turn came to describe grandma, I didn't chicken out, I told them that my grandma wore coveralls and rode around on a John Deere tractor and probably secretly wished that someone else would "weedeat the crick" (and sometimes not so secretly). But truthfully, I didn't go back.
When she died, her main entertainment was the birdfeeders outside her window. She loved, no, she lerved the birds and would make all varieties of suet and hummingbird food for them.
I remember as a very little girl her house seemed filled with secret stashes of Prang watercolors and coloring books and blank paper screaming to be drawn on. And strange interesting books and photo albums. As a little girl, I loved her sort of dirty but exotic seeming house. It just seemed to contain a million benevolent secrets.