Grandma Linn is my fathers mother. She was the mom of 6 kids, 5 boys and 1 girl. She lived the next town over from us growing up. Grandpa Linn died when I was just a baby and I don't remember him at all. I remember Grandma only being a single woman or being married to Bob. She lived in the house in Bellevue that my dad grew up in, it was a blue two story house, the 2nd story had its own entrance and was rented out at some point.
When I was little my mom went back to work as a childrens librarian. If she couldn't find a babysitter my Gma would sometimes watch me. We would become embroiled in a Sorry blood feud. It was years before I was able to beat her, but I tried so hard. We used to walk her Dachshund Penny up and down the block or play in the backyard with her. Penny was a very particular dog that really only liked Gma. She had a blue ball with a bell on it and a fat belly that hung down by the ground. Sharen and I would stay the night and throw the ball for Penny and occasionally she would run over it with her belly and it would get stuck, just roll along under her belly. Penny would be so mad thinking that we were hiding her ball from her. I seem to remember the strangest things about time with her house on High Street.
There was a Sunshine Family play set that was on the top shelf of the closet that I would play with for hours. I have it now, Sharen and I were looking through it awhile ago and realized that the hassock (or ottoman) that we used was an old Aqua Net hairspray cap and the sofa the Sunshine Family would relax on was a cut up cardboard milk container with some fabric on it. When we were little, it was specialty furniture to us! I remember the way the sidewalk was worn smooth made it the perfect sidewalk to ride bikes on. There were enough cracks to make it interesting, but not enough to make it scary. She had an old detached garage with a dirt floor. I used to poke and prod around in there fascinated by the way the garage looked. I was sure there was something to discover in there, although there never was. The stairs that created the separate entrance to upstairs off the side of the house were hours of fun running up and down up and down and just sitting on the landing up top spying on the mystery neighbor next door. The upstairs in and of itself was so fascinating. I never knew why we couldn't go up there, I was sure it was because something salacious happened there and no one spoke about it. Turns out, Gma just didn't use it because she didn't need to.
Gma was friends with her neighbor, Mary. Mary was an old Italian woman that mothered everyone. We would go over there and she would feed us heaping plates of spaghetti with tall cold glasses of milk. She would sit and chat with Gma in Gma's kitchen and I would just lay on the floor listening to them talk.
After Gma married Bob I would still hang out with them, and they would take me random places with them. They would visit friends of theirs in Sandusky, Norwalk and the surrounding towns and I would tag along. Normally I would have a few moments of polite conversation with the adults and be shuttled into a room and given a classic movie like Doc Hollywood to enjoy. I also watched the Mission Impossible TV series at a lot of different houses while they visited their friends. I loved it, it was never ever dull. I would get to see these totally non Gma sides of Gma, but they also just reinforced who she was as a Gma too. She would take such care of her relationships with her friends. If someone was sick, or if they had a child that was sick, she would remember and ask about it. Gma seemed to have this memory that would capture and retain the name and personal, medical and relational history of everyone she met. Then she would recall these things and ask about them with such concern. I would get to hear exciting stories about what these grown ups did and I learned that the world wasn't always kind to people, but that was ok when you had friends like Gma and Bob.
In high school Gma had to have bypass surgery and she had a rough go at it after. She would get depressed and her worrying tendencies escalated to some crazy heights. The people that she had gathered around gathered around her and helped as best as they could. It took awhile for her to pull out of her post surgery depression, but she did for the most part. Although she always seemed a little more sad from that point on to me. Nothing catastrophic, she was just a little bit different than she was before.
In the fall of 2000 I moved to Bowling Green, about 45 minutes west of my hometown because I got a job at a bank. My parents followed in 2002 because my dad had been commuting for his job for a few years and was pretty much over that. They all decided that Gma and Bob would move in with them. At that point Gma was in her early 80s I think and Bob was in his early 90s. I would often ride my bike over to see them, especially if/when Mom and Dad were out of town. Gma would be so mad that I rode my bike so far (which was really about 5 miles at the very longest) and insist that at the end of the evening Bob drive me home. Most of the time he would even heave my bike into the back of his car by himself. Gma still worried a lot, wringing the skin off her hands we called it. Once, my parents were in India and she was almost hysterical with worry that something would happen to them both while they were over there. I was over having dinner and she just was so agitated and would not calm down about it. For the first time, and the only time, I yelled at her. I mean she was talking about car bombings and snipers and terrorist attacks taking out my parents, she was crying hysterically and Bob couldn't get her to calm down at all. It was a panic attack brought on my such terrible worry. I told her that there was nothing she could do about it if that's what was happening. That for all we knew any of us could be killed that very moment, fall over dead from a heart attack or aneurysm or whatever. I reminded her of all the people that told me after my friend was killed that those sorts of things just don't happen in small towns and how they were all wrong because these sorts of things can happen anywhere at anytime. I just yelled and yelled telling her that if she wanted to worry why not worry about this or that or the other thing. I said that if she was going to be scared of this she should be scared of that because of this reason. In the end I calmed down and so did she and I told her that as scared as she was she shouldn't even be getting out of bed in the morning, because she could slip and fall or someone else could. That living our lives crippled by this fear was just useless.
I don't know if it's because I'm getting older but my neurosis and fear can sometimes feel like it borders on hysterical sometimes (to the degree that Cody suggested I seek professional help this past weekend). But I still remind myself of this conversation and what I said to my Gma way back in 2002 and it helps calm me down. Because I don't know what the day holds, but I know that God is large and in charge and my worries are safe in his arms.
Towards the end of her life Gma started talking about her life more and more. I asked her how she met Grandpa Linn (who by most accounts was not the kindest husband and father). She had moved to Nashville after getting her nursing degree and met him in the hallway of the boarding house she was staying at. She looked at me and said, "Just like that, my life changed." She went on to talk about how if she had never run into him there she wouldn't have had her 6 kids, who she loved so deeply. She wouldn't have moved to Bellevue and met the friends she cared for all those years. She wouldn't have been a home care nurse and wouldn't have taken care of Bob's wife as she died of cancer and she wouldn't have met Bob. When she said the last part she looked to Bob who sat beside her at the table and she just lit up. Wide smile, glistening eyes. She reached over and he took her hand and patted it. It was almost uncomfortable seeing such tender intimacy happen with me in the room, like I was intruding on something. But it was a picture of love, of marriage that I hold on to still. That reassures me that even if I wait until I am retired and gray headed for marriage that it will be well worth the wait.
Gma died in the spring of 2006. She had fallen, gotten sick and simply never recovered. She went into the hospital and they didn't know if she was going to make it. Nicole was in Cincinnati for the weekend and she no sooner arrived in Cincinnati then we turned around and went right back to BG. Nicole and I would hang out with her in her room and she kept demanding that we recite the Lords Prayer with her. She was also saying Hail Marys, part of a long ago forgotten Catholic Mass. She was in the hospital for a week or so and then she was gone. We spent time with her in the hospital before she died and there was one afternoon in particular that I remember. The whole time she was at the hospital she was agitated and would raise her hands up while crying out Papa Papa. I sat over there with her one afternoon, when others were resting or greeting family members that were streaming into town. I sat over there, held her hand, recited the Lords Prayer and read the Psalms aloud to her. It was the last time I saw her and it was spent worshiping God in such a pure way. I have no idea if she knew what she was doing in a logical way that we would understand, but she was calling out for her Father in Heaven, raising her hands and praising him. That much I know for sure. Uncles came in the room and my time alone with her was done.
Like Aunt Ellen and Bob I never truly appreciate Gma until I was older, and even then I'm not sure that I appreciated her enough. I'm glad that I had the time with her when we both lived in BG and even the few months we all lived together at mom and dads house.
I learned love, crazy irrational love from Gma. She loved. You couldn't avoid the fact that she loved. She saw everyone, no matter how large or small they were according to social standing, financial standing or reputation she saw them. She remembered their names, their kids names. She remembered what was going on in their life and asked about it. She saw them. She taught me faith that was built by habit and discipline that developed into a habit and desire so deep that even when her mind was going on before her body she still cried out in worship of a God so awesome. She didn't teach me that faith by beating me over the head or making me feel like an outcast for not wanting to know this God. She taught me by believing and growing closer to Him herself.
Like Bob she was generous. With her time, her attention, her money and her love. I was lucky to be her granddaughter and to know that part of her is flowing through my veins.