Yes, I'm going to let this picture set the tone of this post even though Grandma would have been horrified by its presence on the internet and yet amused at the same time. That's just who she was and that is how I will always remember her.
She was named Nancy after her aunt, but she didn't like the aunt and always hated the name. She went by Virginia for most of her life except when she was called Mom, Grandma, or Great-Grandma.
In June of 1946 after knowing each other for six weeks, Virginia, age 19, and George Gordon Sayers, age 23, were married at the courthouse in Marshfield, Missouri. Together they would have five children. My mother, was their third child. After being married for 26 years, they divorced in 1973. Virginia would never remarry. Some would say that this is because she remained in love with George and others would believe that she had become bitter toward men.
My grandma lived away from me for much of my life. When I was three or so she moved closer to three of my mother's siblings and assisted them in raising their families. This put a strain on her relationship with us (my mom, my siblings, and me) but eventually that would all change as I reached adulthood.
Grandma and I started talking on the phone once or twice a week for an hour or two and then it increased to a daily thing. I would call Grandma after I got home from college and we'd talk until supper time. There were times where we'd talk for seven or eight hours and we NEVER ran out of things to say. She'd keep me updated on the family near her and I would tell her about school and my immediate family.
I got to see her for the first time that May at a family reunion. I would get to see her regularly after that. Our relationship started to mend and then I realized something that I hadn't realized before.
Remember the picture that I showed you in my post All About ME!? I told you that it was the first picture that my mom got to see of me because she couldn't go with me to the new hospital. What I didn't tell you is that Grandma (and my aunt and uncle) followed me to that new hospital. Grandma was my mom's proxy. She would be the one to sign for any treatment that I needed. They didn't think that I would live three days. I think Grandma was afraid of becoming attached to me and then I would die just like her mother and her siblings.
I began to ask Grandma questions. I asked her what she remembered. She would tell me stories. I'd tell her what I would find, and she would fill in the gaps. Of course most of this had to be corroborated with documentation (if possible) but I'm very lucky that there wasn't much that I didn't ask. I just wish that I'd have asked some things before she began to forget.
In 2007, Grandma had to have her hips replaced. She never seemed to recover from that. She went from being independent and making trips across the state to visit me to using a walker to using two canes to using one cane and back to using a walker. She slowly began to lose her independence but not her wit.
My mom and I made the decision to move closer to Grandma in mid 2008. We went from living across the state to ten minutes away. We were always doing something with Grandma and even when the weather was bad my mom would go to Grandma's apartment to make sure that she had what she needed.
On February 25, 2011, we found out that Grandma had anaplastic thyroid cancer. Her oncologist stated that the cancer had grown from another type of cancer. If the first cancer had been caught she could have survived as it would have been treatable. When her doctor started treating her for bronchitis he told her that it wasn't her thyroid when she asked.
March 3, 2011, Grandma returned home for the last time and with the help of a great local hospice organization we were able to keep her comfortable. Her children and grandchildren worked together, and we were able to be with her around the clock by taking turns.
I last saw my grandmother on March 14, 2011. I was going to visit her again on the 16th, but that was not to be.
On the morning of March 16, 2011, my uncle called my mom and told her to get to Grandma's apartment. It was close to 7am. Grandma died that morning. When Mom got back to the house she came in with Grandma's watch. It was the watch that I had given her several years earlier for Christmas. Mom told me that Grandma didn't need it anymore. I knew she was gone.
We even had a nickname for each other. 4'10. She'd call me and ask me what I was up to and I'd say "about 4'10" to which she would reply, "Hey, me too!" The joke was that when she had her hips replaced she got shorter. She would say it was because the doctor, "chopped my butt off!"
She always made time for me. She would even call and let me know if she was going somewhere so that I wouldn't worry if I couldn't get a hold of her....just like a best friend. That's what I miss the most.
Today marks 3 years since she's been gone, but she's always with us. Every once in a while we get signs from her. I don't believe in ghosts or mediums, but there are just some things that you can't explain and signs that you just can't ignore. And sometimes, a voice that says, "Hey, 4'10! What do you know?" I know that I miss you 4'10. I know that most of all.
"Now we come here with nothing
And take it with us the day we leave
the first and last breath don't matter
It's all the ones that are in between."
-Happy Ending (Sugarland)
Bush, Kristian; Nettles, Jennifer; Owens, Tim. (2006). Happy Ending. [recorded by Sugarland]. On Enjoy the Ride [Compact Disc]. Nashville, Tennessee: Mercury Records.