Remembering Grandma Gray

I got the call Tuesday morning that my grandma died. I knew immediately when I saw my mom’s name pop up on my caller ID. My mom usually never calls me while I’m at work and my grandma hadn’t been doing well the past week or so.

It didn’t really hit me right away. I was sad, but I didn’t immediately burst into tears. She had lived a long life (she was 90!) and she had been in a lot pain the last couple months with various illnesses, and now she was finally with my grandpa again. I went back to my desk and my coworker asked if I was alright, and I was.

My grandma, as well as the rest of my dad’s side of the family, lives in western Pennsylvania, which is about an 11-12 hour drive. My parents and my sister drove up on Wednesday, but I didn’t head up until Thursday with my other two brothers and Andrew since we had to work. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, which is always a good thing. It was a bit long, but it wasn’t anything I’m not used to since our family has always taken long road-trips to Florida and Pennsylvania.

All of my dad’s family met up at my grandma’s house for dinner on Thursday night. It was so good to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins, some of which hadn’t seen in a long time. We found a bunch of old photo albums and pictures of my grandma’s and we had such a good time going through them and reminiscing. There were pictures of my grandma at all different ages, and we found some of me and my siblings, as well as a ton of my dad! We laughed at everyone’s outfits and hair and it was just so good to be there with everyone at that time when we were all hurting to share those memories together.

The funeral home held a private viewing for the family first. They really did my grandma well; she looked absolutely beautiful.  As she got older and as she got sicker, she looked less like herself, but this looked like my grandma.

I cried then. And I held my dad and he held me. And we both cried together.

My grandparents lived on a pretty big piece of land, so going to Pennsylvania was always a bit of an adventure for us. We were used to houses right next to each other in suburban neighborhoods, and all the space was luxurious .The front of their house looks down a steep bank and out to the river. Down there, they had a garden, the stables for their horses, and the honeybees that my grandpa raised. Their backyard extended out into the forest for a couple of acres. We never explored the forest very well since they’ve spotted bears before, but the rest of their land was our playground.

I remember my grandpa would pull us around on this rickety little homemade wagon that he would pull with his tractor. We would bounce around and giggle as he pulled us all over the house and down the path to the stables by the creek.

Me sitting on my grandpap’s lap with my sister riding in the wagon on the back. Wish I had found some of me and my grandma!

My grandpa had two horses; one named Raindrop who was a white mare with black spots all over, and Chip who was a smooth brown color. Raindrop was always my favorite. He would let us ride them as long as he or my aunt was leading them around on the reins. They were good horses, and we always enjoyed petting them and riding them when we could. You don’t see horses too often in the suburbs, so they were really exciting for us.

Whenever we would travel up for a week in the summer or over Christmas break, my grandma would always bake us all of our favorite cookies and candies: peanut brittle for me and my brother, a pumpkin roll for my sister, mint chocolates for my other brother, chocolate gobs for my mom, and everything in between for my dad. She would make everything from scratch, even the buns we would have for sandwiches for lunch. In the mornings she would make homemade cinnamon rolls, and we would help her shuck corn for dinner that evening. Everything was always delicious, but my family especially loved the corn that they grew in the garden.

Some of my favorite Christmases were at my grandma’s. One of my favorite toys as a kid – that my mom saved and still has now for future grandchildren– was a Barbie house that they gave me. The wall swiveled to make the room either a kitchen or a bedroom and the bed folded up and down. The boombox next to the bed had a button you could press and it would play music, and the phone in the kitchen you could make ring. I thought it was the coolest thing and I played with it all the time.

As cool as that Barbie house was, my favorite gift from my grandma is a sock monkey that she made by hand. This was so special to me because she made it from real socks, and it looked like she could have bought it straight from a store. I played with it a lot, so it’s a little beaten up today, but I still have it proudly sitting on my bookshelf. She also made me and my siblings stuffed bears and knit clothes for our dolls, as well as baby blankets and scarves.

She never forgot to send a card or a call on your birthday, and she had everyone’s birthday memorized in the family – and our family is huge! She had nine siblings (including my grandpa’s), six children (plus spouses), eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and countless nieces and nephews. But she never forgot anyone.

That was just the type of person she was.

I have so many wonderful memories of my grandma, so it was hard to say goodbye. Her absence made me miss my grandpa’s absence even more. Losing her makes me feel like I’ve lost him again. My memories of my grandma are intertwined with memories of my grandpa, and vice versa.

This weekend was hard, but with all hurt there is healing, and the knowledge that she is in a better place with my grandpa once again comforts all of us. But we sure will miss her.

9 thoughts on “Remembering Grandma Gray”

  1. I’m so sorry, Becca! I’m glad you wrote this post! Your grandma seemed really sweet! My grandpa (who passed away last year) was a really sweet man and he always befriended everyone he met. I remember in middle school when I played the cello, he always wanted to hear me play and he always told me I played beautifully (even though I wasn’t very good).

    That picture of you and your grandpa is so cute!! I could tell it was you! :)

  2. Death is never easy even if we know it is coming, and so when I lost both grandfathers to different things: maternal to drugs and illness, and my paternal to a heart attack, I was devastated. I loved them both, despite my paternal grandparents not speaking a lick of English but still, I believe I was the first grandchild she had from my dad, who is the eldest of 8 kids. Still, knowing that their memories and legacy lives on in you and future generations makes them immortal really. You never really forget someone, but in the end, we all die, and it’s never something we can predict but we can be brave to meet it and realize that you can heal from the pain. Your grandma is in a better place now, and I believe that.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma :( She sounds like an amazing and sweet woman! I smiled while reading your memories of her and your time at your grandparents’ place. Thank you for sharing them with us :) Visits with them must have been so fun, and I love that old photo of you!

    I’m glad you were able to be with your family during this tough time, and it sounds like your grandma lived a long and happy life. I hope you and your family are ok *hugs*

  4. It’s so incredibly sad to hear that you lost your grandma. As sad as it is and the amount that you will miss her, I am so glad that you do have many wonderful memories. Being close and sharing a lot of love for your grandparents is something I understand. When you lose one it’s incredibly difficult, however, when they have become ill it’s also in some way a slight relief because you know they are no longer suffering.

    I hope over time you will be able to heal. Know that they are always with you and helping to guide you through life. <3

  5. I am sorry to hear about your grandmother’s passing. Please feel free to reach out if you need someone to talk to ♥. Your grandmother definitely lived a long life. I’m glad that everyone could make it out to western Pennsylvania to unite with your family members. Little Becca is adorable! It is pretty neat how you got to experience some great memories at your grandparent’s house! Your grandmother is really amazing with remembering everyone’s birthdays by heart and sending birthday cards every year. ♥

  6. Sorry to hear about your Grandma. It’s always awful when something like that happens.

    It sounds like you had a lot of great memories with her and your Grandpa – that photo of you on the tractor is so cute! And it’s so lovely that she made you a sock monkey! My grandma knitted me a doll of a character from a TV programme I loved, and I still have it now, even though it’s gotten a bit worn over the years. Things like that are always more special.

    Hope your doing okay with everything.

  7. Oh, Becca, I am so sorry for the loss of your grandmother. Thank you for sharing your memories about her. Reading them brought tears to my eyes and reminded me about my own grandmother’s passing a couple of years ago. Being that she was my last grandparent, her passing really affected me.

    Will you take a photo of that sock monkey? That sounds like a precious gift and I would love to see this special thing from your grandmother. If you don’t want to, I understand :)

  8. Oh my goodness, I’m very sorry to hear about your loss Becca, I know it’s been a month since you wrote about this but I’m sure the pain is still very raw. Just because you didn’t cry immediately doesn’t mean that you didn’t feel upset. I have to say that although I don’t have grandparents anymore, I wasn’t as close to them as some of my friends were to theirs. I almost wish I had the opportunity to be closer to them because the memories, particularly those that you have of your grandma, are beautiful.

    I think it’s lovely that you came together and reminisced about your grandma. I actually really liked the sound of the Barbie house but her sock puppets sound like something that really reflected her personality and are definitely a more intimate reminder of her. :)

    Your grandma definitely came from a huge family! My parents come from a huge family and even though I don’t keep in contact with them much, they’ll message my mum to wish me a happy birthday – they don’t forget either. 😄

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