Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grandma Ruth's birthday

When I wrote the date, I realized that today would be my Grandma Ruth's birthday. I'm glad I remembered, because it brought back such good memories of a wonderful grandma.

The way I always describe Grandma Ruth to people is to explain what happened the day after my birthday when I turned 9 or 10. I received a new scooter for my birthday that year. It was lavender and had hand brakes. I don't know if my parents gave it to me or if Grandma did. But I remember that after school on my birthday, Grandma Ruth came over for birthday dinner and we took turns riding my scooter up and down the sidewalk up front. But the real memory is from the next day, when someone at school asked if I had had a party for my birthday. I told them that we'd had dinner and cake and ice cream, and that Grandma Ruth and I had played on my new scooter. "Your grandma? Rode a scooter? Grandmas don't ride scooters," someone said. And I was baffled, because of course grandmas could ride scooters. What kind of boring grandmas did this person have?

Grandma Ruth was our main babysitter growing up. She played with us, read us stories, and tucked us into bed. More than once I got out of bed and went to tell her I had a bad dream or I was scared, even if I wasn't, because I knew that she would come into my bedroom and rub my back until I fell asleep.

She made apple pie with lots of cinnamon for Thanksgiving, and ham with scalloped potatoes for dinner on Christmas Eve. I have a memory of standing on a chair in her kitchen helping to make cookies.

She played golf and liked the color red. She collected giraffes--everything from stuffed toys to jewelry to prints to dish towels. When we were little, my brother and sister and I made a game of counting how many giraffes were in Grandma's house. The number was well into the hundreds. When I was in Buenos Aires last year, I bought a wooden carving of a giraffe, thinking of it as a gift for Grandma.

She worked at the police station in our town. Sometimes my mom would take us down to visit her there after school. She always had lemon drops on her desk. I can't eat a lemon drop without remembering her.

When I was in middle school and my mom went back to work, I spent the afternoons at Grandma's house doing homework and watching television until my mom could pick me up. Grandma was working (right down the street), so most days I didn't see her. Until she got sick and had to stop working. Then she would be there in the afternoons. We would have Reese's peanut butter cups and A&W root beer for a snack. I remember that we would sit and talk, but I don't remember any of our conversations.

I remember that she got sicker and sicker. That instead of being in the rocking chair or at the kitchen table, she would be in bed when I got there. That eventually we would go visit her, but I wasn't spending afternoons there. That the house was full of people--relatives, friends, hospice workers. That I took home a stuffed giraffe a few weeks before she died.

She died just after Valentine's Day in 1992.

I wish Brian could have met her. I wish I could see her holding my baby this winter.



1 comment:

The Sister said...

I remember one time I told Grandma Ruth I couldn't sleep and she told me "Well you don't have to go to sleep, but you do have to lay in bed with your eyes closed until morning."