Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The grandfather clocked is stopped. 5:43, it reads. I was sitting in my parents' living room yesterday afternoon when I noticed this. It seemed so appropriate.

It's the grandfather clock that I remember chiming hour after hour at my grandparents' house. My parents salvaged it when Grandma went to live in an assisted-living place about five years ago. Its one of those mementos of the way things used to be.

Mom called Friday to tell me that Grandma had passed away. She was 89, and the cancer was just too much. I flew into Oklahoma City yesterday, and the service was today. When I tell people that my grandmother has just died, I get this sympathetic response that I don't quite know what to do with. I'm sad, yes, but we weren't close.

What I remember is a barrage of snippet images from the past. She obsessively devoured Jeopardy on TV. She was an avid reader, and for a time, shared with me what she read in the latest Max Lucado. There was a magazine rack in the house in the shape of a stagecoach that was also filled with Smithsonian magazines. She collected knicknacks with lighthouses on them.

She lived two hours from where I lived growing up, and we would visit for a weekend once a month. She was always an early riser, and I remember the image of her already sitting at the kitchen table with her coffee no matter what time I groggily woke up. I'll remember her food. When I told her she made the fluffiest scrambled eggs, she bought me a hand mixer for Christmas. That was the secret, she said.

Her apple pie will never be matched. She would bake one especially for me whenever I visited. Thanksgiving feast was her specialty, and few dinners were made with such care and devotion. She handmade her own stuffing, and prepared creamed onions, a dish I've never seen anywhere else. Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving without Grandma's creamed onions.

In the service today, my uncle spoke of her commitment and devoted service to my grandfather. This is what I learned most from my grandmother. For the final twenty years of his life, my grandfather was bedridden with multiple sclerosis. In all of that time, he never once went to a nursing home because of Grandma's determination to care for him herself as long as she could. She got him out of the house as best as she possibly could, to MS meetings and to eat out, until she cracked her back twice in the process. He died a month after their 50th wedding anniversary. She selflessly gave herself to serve him, a model of devotion and commitment in marriage.

Five years ago, she moved from the house I remember into assisted-living. Her hearing had quickly deteriorated, and it was increasingly difficult to carry a conversation with her, which made her withdraw and seem isolated. The doctors found a softball-sized cancer last February and her health tailspinned. She was put in hospice two weeks ago.

The grandfather clocked is stopped. Things are different now. She is different now.

posted by Peter at 12:29 AM
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