The strongest woman I know

Everything I want to be when I’m 80

Before my grandma’s funeral, I struggled to write a eulogy. I had a Word doc open on my computer. It had words and thoughts jumbled together, but it just wasn’t working. There was no flow. No story.

My grandma was the strongest woman I know. When I was setting up a 401k, the advisor asked me how long I expect to live. To gague, he about my family history.

“My grandma is going to live forever and it’s going to make her so mad,” I told him, “I want to be like her, so let’s plan for the longest option.”

Until the day I got the call that Grandma had died, I really believed it was possible she’d live past the century mark. She was the strongest woman I know. She was a woman of unwavering faith. She did all the work she needed to do here on Earth and while I’ll miss her terribly, I’m so happy she’s getting her rest.

Grandma left her small town and moved to Minneapolis after her high school graduation, which I always found incredibly brave. She wanted to go to college to study English, but she didn’t know she had to apply and make financial arrangements with the university, so she got a job at Woolworth’s instead. She made it work. She always made it work.

That job at Woolworth’s reunited her with Grandpa. Together, they had 16 kids. And raised them all to be good human beings. They had 30+ grandchildren and showed up for all of us, too.

She’d bring a handful of kids out to her house on the lake for a long weekend or a week at a time. There, she had a shed full of outdoor toys like inner tubes and water guns. Inside were puzzles, books, and cookies.

Grandma loved playing Crapette, a French card game. There were always a couple of decks on her dining table. Also, a couple bowls of pennies. Grandma and Grandpa each had a bowl and they’d put a penny in the other’s bowl when they lost.

When I was younger, Grandma would give me hints or remind me to “look around” when we played Crapette, but two years ago, she told me, “you’re too old for me to let you win now.”

After that, she got competitive. The last time I played her, she creamed me, then had me count the cards left in my hand, saying she was curious. I suspect she wanted to know exactly how big her victory was.

I also learned that Grandma had a whole life outside of being my Grandma. It was often difficult to call her. When she’d call me back hours or days later, she’d say, “I missed your call. I was out running around.”

Of course she was!

Last summer, she had a heart attack. I was worried about her until my parents sent me a picture of her hours later out picking up sticks in her backyard.

Of course she was!

She asked my cousin and me to make sure there was tuna casserole at her funeral. She was sick of her friends dying and eating the same meals over and over. She wanted something different. When Jessica showed up with potato chips and cans of tuna, explaining that Grandma requested this, the church ladies responded, “of course your Grandma did.”

Grandma has been one of my tour guides through life. I don’t know what it’s going to be like not to be able to call her for reassurance or when I need my ego checked in a Crappette crushing.

I’m glad she’s back with Grandpa and I’m grateful for the time I had with her. I also know that we’ll all be OK because she gave us one another.

Here’s the obit. I’ll count “During the winter, she could be found zooming down the hill on her red sled” among the most effective sentences I’ve ever written.

Published by Candace

I’m a journalist, nutritionist, doting auntie, one-time bobsledder, and wannabe health nut (who loves chocolate and pizza too much to fully commit). I don't want you to think my life is perfect. It's not.

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