Grandmas on my Mind
On my last day in the middle of cow country Wisconsin, my uncle took a few pictures of me and my Grandma Helen. I will cherish the photos forever because she looks so beautiful and because we’re both smiling. More importantly, we had a wonderful visit and I can see that on our faces. When I posted the picture on Facebook, I never anticipated you would see the same thing. I’m overwhelmed by all the sweet compliments and comments you posted and by how many of you took time to smile at the photo like I do. Thank you!
Every year, I make the trek to my Grammy’s small town of 988 people in central Wisconsin. At least that’s what the sign says, but I’m not sure it’s true anymore. It’s a sweet, sleepy little town where my Gram has lived most of her life, though she raised her family on a farm a few miles out. My dad, aunt, and uncle keep asking her to move in with one of them, but she won’t. At 91-years-old, she still meets her group of friends almost every morning for coffee and conversation. She’s the oldest, but she keeps up. The night before I arrived, a few of them were out until 10:30 on a gambling trek to casinos on the other side of the state. Ha! I fly into the tiny airport of Appleton, WI, (south of Green Bay) and drive more than two hours to reach her house, but it’s worth all the inconvenience and expense every time I see her smile. We spent the first afternoon telling stories and looking at pictures on my phone. She doesn’t have a computer, and I go to the library to use the internet…but she really appreciated the photos, the weather app, and my ability to look up a friend’s address like magic.
The majority of my life flies along at breakneck speed with constant access and very few boring moments. At Gram’s, I love the simplicity and slower pace. Walking around the grocery store, picking up food for a few days, and setting the table while she cooks bring me such joy. We also went out for “birthday lunch” to celebrate with a couple of her friends. I was the youngest at the table by at least 30 years! So much fun to listen to them share their memories and finish one another’s sentences. I hope I smile that much when I’m in their shoes! Another of the highlights from my trip was our scavenger hunt in a nearby town where they recently set up a dozen life-sized decorated cows as strategic landmarks. We drove all over to find them: the Cheese Cow decked out in Packers’ colors at a park; the Intellectual Cow with books piled on her back at the library; the Patriotic Cow in red, white, and blue at the veterans’ memorial site; the Pumpkin Cow (my favorite) in honor of the town’s huge fall festival; the cow decked out in purple and pink flowers to welcome visitors. We found all 12 and laughed the whole time. Gram loved the cows, and I loved how excited she got each time we stumbled upon another one.
My Grammy uses a walker when she’s outside the house now since she’s had a couple scary falls. Thankfully, she hasn’t broken any bones recently, but I know she’s more frail these days. Her sharp mind and stubborn will keep her going. She refused to let me put the walker in the backseat of the car when we went shopping; instead, she had to make sure she could lift it herself. What an amazing woman, my hero. She cried when we said good-bye, and I can’t help but wonder how many more days I’ll get to spend with her in that itty-bitty town. I’m so thankful for every second I get to be around her; and though people laugh when I tell them about my vacation plans to the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, I’ll keep making the journey until she’s gone.
My dad’s mom is the only grandparent I have left. Both my grandfathers died from cancer far too young. My maternal grandma passed away the week after 9/11 at the age of 91 when her heart finally gave out. I’ve never met a tougher person than my Grandma Mary anywhere. She survived a stillborn daughter, the death of her adult son, the loss of her husband after more than 50 years of marriage, quadruple bypass surgery, and a double mastectomy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She modeled kindness, compassion, grace, spirit, strength, and generosity above all else. I still miss her every day, so I can’t wait for this Sunday when I will run the Komen Race for the Cure in Central Park in her honor. I’m participating as part of the CBS Radio team, and we’ll do a 5K with thousands of others who converge on New York City. Also in my thoughts and prayers will be family friend Barbara who’s battling breast cancer a second time as well as Gary and Scott (going through chemo) and a few others who’ve reached out on Facebook and Twitter to share their stories. It’s a privilege to carry this burden with you.
If you’d like to know more or pass along news of a loved one or donate in the name of someone special, I’m attaching the link for my personal page. Thanks for your interest to this point. Of course, I’ll have pictures and a full report after the race! XO