We'd all known this day would come, but we were pretending it wouldn't.
A week ago Saturday my grandmother passed away. She was 101 and had been ailing for the past couple of years. The funeral was last weekend, so the kids and I picked up my parents in Chattanooga and we drove on up to the St. Louis area where she'd lived all her life.
She lived in this house for sixty years or so, selling it only when it was time for her to move somewhere where there would be more people around to help her, if necessary. She and my grandfather built it in the early '30's, and my mother grew up in it.
Every Sunday and every holiday my mother and her family, along with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins, used to convene at her grandparents' house, which was next door to the church. That house was built in 1905, and, as the story goes, had the only electricity in town at the time, which was such a novelty that people used to pull their wagons and buggies up across the street to watch the lights turn on at night.
When I knew this house, it belonged to my aunt and uncle. Whenever we were in town we spent many happy hours there.
While last weekend was a sad occasion, it was nice to see people who I hadn't seen in years, or maybe decades. And really it was much more a celebration of a life well-lived than a morose gathering. Grandma had been saying for at least the last 20 years that she didn't want anyone crying at her funeral because she had had a good time in her stay here and she was excited to get on to see what was next. After her husband, my grandpa, died in 1977, she continued with all her interests, her groups, and her activities. She bought a computer years before I did, and she belonged to groups with other people who were decades younger than she was.
Last year we drove up to Illinois to say goodbye to my father's mother. The traits I like to think she passed along to me were a strong work ethic and a fierce independence. And while my mother's mom certainly worked hard, she loved to have a good time. She had lots of friends and lots of interests, which meant she was usually doing something she enjoyed. She was always excited about something and she never let conventions about what "old people do" stand in her way. That love of life was a true gift, and she shared it whenever she could. Many, many times she shared it with me.
My mother frequently gets excited about new things or interests, and I find myself doing it too. And there are other people in my house who like to try new things and who don't feel bound by convention.
A strong work ethic, fierce independence, and an endless love of life. I'd say my grandmas set me up pretty well.