This is me and my grandmother, about 3 years ago:I’m sad that I don’t have a more recent photo of the two of us. She was the woman who taught me how to knit. When I was about seven years old, she took me to get my first pair of knitting needles- bright green 6 mm straights. I loved them. I wish I still had them.
The day after mother’s day, she passed away. If you are so inclined, you can read the eulogy that I gave at her funeral. It pretty much sums it up.
When I first began to think about what to say here today about my grandmother, I realized I only knew such a small part of her- what she was like as a grandmother. It’s the rest of you who know what she was like as a mother, a sister, a friend. But we have all known her love.
When I think of Grannie, there are so many little things that come to mind:
She loved birds, knew the names of every single one that ever crossed the yard. She also loved cats, and sometimes those two loves did not get on so well with each other.
She had a killer sense of humour, she loved to laugh. Even right now, I can remember exactly what her laugh sounds like.
She loved playing cards, and apparently was quite the shark at poker. I remember her sitting at the kitchen table with the other grown ups, smoking and looking at her cards over the rim of her glasses.
She was an avid reader, and always had a book on the go. She liked mysteries the best.
She was a knitter. She knit sweaters and slippers for all her children and grandchildren. She taught me how to knit when I was little, and I still do it. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I remember her taking me to get my first pair of knitting needles, bright green ones, and carefully showing me how to wrap the yarn and move one stitch over the next, over and over again.
And could that woman ever bake! Cakes, Cookies, squares, everything. Most clearly I remember her making money cakes for us grandchildren when we were really little, with quarters and dimes and nickels wrapped in wax paper and baked into a chocolate cake, covered in thick chocolate icing. We would comb through our slices with the care of archeologists, trying to find all the money we could.
I remember when I was little, she grew strawberries in the back yard, and we would go out in the garden and walk through the tidy rows, looking for ripe berries to put in our bowls. She would often comment about the insects that would get at them, like grubs, and she would mutter under her breath about ‘those little buggers’ until one day I saw a grub on a strawberry and said the same thing – ‘those little buggers’. And Grannie stopped, and looked at me. I could tell by the look in her eyes that I had said something wrong, but I had no idea what. When she told me that bugger was a bad word, I paused for only a moment before asking what ‘bugger’ meant. She never did tell me. And after that she seemed to use the term ‘ugger-bees’ a lot.
She was strong. The after-effects of the polio she had as a child stayed with her her whole life, but I can’t remember ever hearing her complain, I never once heard her say anything that sounded like she was sorry for herself. And even up to the end, she hung on longer than most of us ever expected, longer than most of us would manage. She was tough.
When she was unable to live on her own anymore, my parents bought her house, and I find that really comforting, being in the house where my mother, aunt, and uncles grew up, where all five of her grandchildren played on the living floor, and in the backyard. Everything about that house reminds me of her.
I’ve been thinking about what her life meant, and what she has left behind. Albert Einstein once said, “death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us- our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.”
Now when I come home to Sudbury to visit, my mother and I bake together in same kitchen she once baked in with her mother, the same kitchen in which I baked with Grannie when I was a child. And one day when I have children of my own, they’ll bake in that kitchen with my mother, and with me.
And when I think of that, I understand what Einstein meant.
Time has a way of moving past us when we aren’t looking. Years dissolve one after the other so quickly, and suddenly there is a whole life behind you, filled with laughter and tears and love, filled with children, grandchildren, family and friends. Maureen Robitaille gave us all so much love. And that legacy, that gift, is something that we carry from here today.