The one I miss. The one I’ll know more of one day, the young one in these pictures. The one that was old when I loved her, but still so young. Who wrote and read and talked of times I never knew. So interested in the world, she was. In governments, in plots and poetry, and not so much in whether her stockings stayed up leg or not. She who let her clothes wear out so she could afford – fixed income of nothing, to buy me and my sisters a dress now and then. A flight to come see us. A phone call to see how we were doing. Stamps for the letters she wrote to tell us how she was. Groceries she bought and always shared. Tight with what didn’t matter, leaving ample for what did. I miss her light blue eyes of sparkle, light in hew, bright in vigor, the sparkle with something that ‘hit a funny bone’, the spark when wheels were turning at the exploration of an idea. Her eyes, they sparkled beyond the ability to see much at all. Her mind wouldn’t give out, even when hearing, sight, and strength slipped away.
Grandma begged me not to leave her. College was calling me. I felt I could not stay. I hate that I did not stay. She passed – just months after. Somehow I think that though she wanted me to stay, she wanted me to go, too. She was the one who talked of education, of opportunities for learning. She would have been the one to thrive with a college education, not even an option for her as her father had abandoned the family, her salary was needed, so work she did.
Grandma was born in 1899. There weren’t many in those years blessed with a way to attend college, Grandma was just one of the many unfortunate. The education she did receive, she soaked into her core and kept with her the rest of her life. Large speeches and selections of poetry memorized, math done quick ‘in my head’. Writing skills she developed all her life. We always said, as Grandma stood peeling apples for pie, listening to her expound on the rise and fall of every nation under the sun, and all the details that went along with their changes, that she should have been a history professor. She was really very interesting to listen to. Her vocal inflections, the lightness where lilt was called for, the laughter in her voice. The serious sound of heartbreak, the solemn sound of sacrifice. She didn’t miss a thing, from the way a country fell to pieces, to the happenings of her childhood and beyond, boys that loved her and she jilted, her memories working as a switchboard operator, memories of her Momma, hair pulled back tight, white apron over heavy ever-day dress, standing over hot stove baking 40 pies a day in the busy river town motel where they lived on the Missouri river.
Last week at the pool, splotchy faced, just having pushed myself a bit too much, I made my way across the expanse of noisy kids to the hot tub. Slipping beneath the bubbles I glanced up to eyes that nearly took my breath away. So much like Grandma’s. Twinkling. Lite blue. Never have I seen eyes so much like Grandmas. Not common eyes, but distinctive and beautiful. Day after day I’ve seen the eyes and smiled. Finally, I mustered up the courage and fumbling for words blurted out “This is a crazy question, but do you happen to be Irish.” to which the lovely lady replied, “I sure am.” I then told her all about my Grandma, how much her eyes looked like Grandma’s eyes, and how much I still miss her, though she’s been gone since 1987. Grandma’s look alike, she’s become my friend. We talk at poolside most every day. As her sparkling eyes tell me another tidbit about life, I wish Grandma was still with me, even more.
(Mom looks so much like our little Mary)