Oh Grammy, my dad's mother... I am so glad I had the opportunity to see her one last time, last October, before she passed away in December. I made sure to document that visit, which you will see below.
Grammy is a champ. Joanne Van Nortwick-Nash, a truly fabulous woman, she endured many hardships and raised two fantastic kids, one of them being my dad. I never knew my dad's dad. He was out of the picture early on in his life. I only knew Douggie, who was Grammy's husband for many years later in life, and he was a total sweetheart. He unfortunately passed away quite a few years ago.
Grammy lived in Yakima, Washington, where my dad grew up, and I only saw her probably 10-15 times in my life - usually for half-week or week-long periods. I always wished I had gotten to know her much better. She had a great wit - always with her dry humor and her hilarious comments you would never expect.
She had her fair share of health problems that greatly intensified when I was about 12-13 years old, when she had a stroke. I'm not sure if that was the first or second stroke. As a grandkid in Alaska, I didn't even know what a stroke meant. All I knew was that her handwriting quivered from then on, and every time I saw her, she couldn't move her left arm. She was basically wheelchair- and bed-bound for the next ten years. I can't even imagine.
Late last year, she developed a really bad bedsore on her lower left leg. Eventually, it and its bandages caused a lot of deterioration and infection. That was incredibly painful for her. My slice of experiencing her pain was when my mom, sister and I were visiting. We'd be talking normally and then out of nowhere she would start saying "ow ow ow ow" and ask to be turned over or to have a nurse move her leg. It was more of a helpless whimper than a question, which was miserable to see. That happened quite a few times.
But, for most of our visit, she slept or we would tell her about our lives. I'd talk about my husband and my cats, because she would ask about them. My sister would talk about her current video games. My mom would talk about her current projects, my brother and his wife. We'd show Grammy our most current photos, and we'd laugh as much as possible. Grammy was very interested in us. She cared. She loved. She listened.
Through her very limited last years, being so bedridden that she couldn't even come to my wedding in Montana two years ago, her demeanor was still sparkly every time we walked through the door. I'm sure she was lonely, but she usually fooled me. She was always elated and quick-witted.
We had a memorial dinner in honor of Grammy two weeks ago. It was the first chance we had to get the whole family together (minus only one cousin). Most of the visit was spent eating. We ate chicken wings, fried halibut, grilled steak, crab legs, raspberry salad, caprese salad, homemade pie, and homemade ice cream. My dad wouldn't allow us to go hungry that night. We could have fed an army with the amount of meat, but he kept saying, "Grammy deserves a feast."
My dad said a few words about what his mom meant to him and to everyone, and we all agreed. There were many stories of her ever-reaching heart, her care for every kid in the neighborhood, and her open home. Through many men and two growing kids, she had a tricky life. According to my dad, she got stuck in some bad situations. But it's a testament to her that through all of that, she raised two really great kids who made great decisions, and she made a big impact on many more people.
Grammy might be gone now, but I'm not really ready to realize it. I probably won't for a long time, and I like that. It's weird, but there's a bittersweet benefit of not seeing your grandparents very often. Not seeing her very often meant I'd always envision her exactly where I left her, and when I didn't see her for a while, I'd assume nothing had changed.
So, for now, it feels like she's still laying in that nursing home, flowers are being delivered from my parents every month, her room is still covered in pictures depicting her huge lattice of love, and the tv is still playing Fox News in the background of her now-stagnant life. I look forward to hearing her next joke.
Someday, after I haven't visited that room for a few extra years, after we mention her less often during family conversations, and after I realize these will always be the last photos I took of her, I'll properly archive my thoughts of Grammy, as a folder that will stop being updated. But until then, the folder is still open and Grammy is still very much alive. That bed is still turned the way we left it, and she has a hair appointment next week.