This is not what you think; this is my grandmother, in her 70’s with her 13 year old granddaughter by her side, walking through Nordstrom in Plaza Frontenac, trying to nicely explain to the woman with the perfume samples why she didn’t want to be sprayed. She wore her own perfume, everyday, it was Opium. Nearly 20 years later I have never forgotten what type of perfume my grandmother wears. Never one to let a quality piece of stylish clothing go to waste she held on to things, not the typical pack rack grandmother with flowery dresses, out of style furnishings and polyester grandma clothes. She believed firmly in looking good and the never ending cycle of fashion. In the 90’s when leather briefly came back in style she was ready, appearing fashionable as ever in her leather pants pulled from where they had been lying in wait to come back into fashion. Unless you know her you cannot possibly imagine how amazingly my grandmother, in her 80’s, pulled off a great pair of leather pants. Never tacky, always tasteful.
She tells stories: learning to drive before driver’s licenses, the experience of giving birth in the days of twilight (watching the flowers grow on the walls), borrowing a car from a teacher at college to elope with my grandfather, the story of how he waited for her while she was out on a date during their brief breakup to tell her he wanted to be with her (she had decided not to be upset about the situation). Stories of how even at 4’10” her students didn’t cross her. She was diminutive, but she is a force. It was a rite of passage growing up when you became taller than her and she took pride in seeing her grandchildren pass her up.
In a family of strong, opinionated women and quiet men, she is the matriarch. A college graduate, who worked when women stayed home, got children to behave not by scolding but teaching them to play solitaire. Wanted to stay current by taking computer classes in her 90’s, went to aerobics several times a week until a month ago, not senior aerobics mind you, the real ones.
Now it is the end, and I am grappling with saying goodbye to the strongest woman I have had the privilege to know, wishing I had visited more, wishing I had written down those stories I must have heard a hundred times. Hoping that what they say is true and I really am just like her, opinionated, speaks her mind, sometimes demanding and stubborn to a fault, it’s the highest compliment I have ever been paid.