Last week would have been my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday. The youngest of four siblings, she was born and raised in a small northern town. Her mother was a widow and a hard-working woman, providing for her family. As a child, my grandmother spent a lot of time with her grandparents who were running a bakery cum coffee shop which was a pit-stop for trading traffic. That really explains her great fondness for coffee and cafes.
She left us in January but she had been gone already for a long time. Despite her solid constitution, she finally stepped into immortality; hadn’t it been for her dementia, she would have been a remarkably youthful ninety-year old.
She never called for attention, but she was the kind of woman whose presence does not go unnoticed. Petite and slender, but not frail. Rather classically feminine and strong despite her small size. With dark hair and the most beautiful eyes; big and of a colour deserving a poetic name like violet or azure. Eyes that would so easily well up when we had to say goodbye. The azure would overflow and trickle down her crease-less soft cheeks.
If I had to use one word to describe her, I would say refined. She artfully filtered beauty through practical moderation to produce an approach to everyday life that made the mundane less ordinary.
Making a three course meal was not only reserved for special occasions and the table would always be beautifully set. She was coquette, but in a down-to-earth way. She inhabited every piece of her clothing, filling it with her personality. I remember her light blues and pinks, her bright greens and earthy yellows. She could miss-match patterns and still look stylish.
Grandmother had a special kind of humor. She was verbal and witty; not particularly talkative and any way, my grandfather would use up some of her speaking quota as well when we were around.
My grandmother adored us, but her feelings were greater than her words. My grandfather verbalised the big emotions. He would say I love you, I miss you. My grandmother’s love could be read between the lines. In the letters that she wrote us. In the Christmas packages she sent, in the picnic bag packed with cucumber sandwiches, tea and cocoa. I understand; the big words can break you if uttered aloud.
Grandfather and grandmother had great love and respect for each other, but he would always take a bit more space. Once, while visiting us, my grandmother really decisively put grandfather in his place, responding to something he had just said.
Appreciatively, I told her that she obviously had some temperament, whereby she responded: “Well, if I did not have a temperament, I would probably be milking cows somewhere in the middle of nowhere”.
You always tried to be correct, but you were never boring dear grandmother. And yes, life took you on a journey from the north to the south of the country and also to many more exotic places and destinations. You were open to what life had to offer and adventurous in your own way. You were loyal and non judgmental.
I so cherish the image of you in your long nightgowns, your softly permed brown hair framing your face, your beautiful eyes alight, your lips always in a light shade of artificial pin, coming to wish us good night. No matter how old you are, a grandmother is always a grandmother.
You are loved and you are missed. You have put a dent in the universe of all those who loved you. I hope you feel and know that, wherever you are. And also, I do wish you had told us more of your story. But maybe the most important things are those that have already been said.