My wonderful Grandma Randolph would’ve turned 100 today. We would’ve had a paaar-taa-ay. It would’ve been at a nursing home, but hey, that wouldn’t have stopped us from celebrating the lady with gusto. Maybe a (vodka?) grapefruit juice cocktail, some salted watermelon with cottage cheese (the lady salted everything), a hefty amount of chocolate cake, some wild break dancing on the linoleum, latex glove chicken balloons. The works.
My grandma fit the quintessential grandma mold perfectly. She was a little squishy around the edges, decorated with cute little trinkets that we loved to rearrange, filled bowls with Werther’s candies, kept After Eights “hidden” in a drawer, and took me (and sometimes my sister) to Furr’s cafeteria for the buffet line on our special overnight dates. There was usually a parade on television that we’d watch while she scrambled eggs, toasted bread and fried bacon for breakfast. I loved it all. She was a constant during my childhood and I treasured being with her.
Grandma was born just prior to WWI and birthed her FULL TERM, BIG twin girls during WWII. I really wish we had pictures of her pregnant. She completed a degree in Home Economics prior to having her girls, which I’m guessing was quite helpful as she entered motherhood married to a vanilla salesman. They weren’t wealthy, but they got by, and both of their girls went to college. Even more importantly, the twins adored their parents. I’ve only heard kind words spoken.
The end of grandma’s life wasn’t easy. Her husband died in 1977 after months living with very painful cancer. (He was really sick while my mom was pregnant with me and died shortly after my birth.) She eventually moved from Indianapolis to Colorado, living just ten minutes from my childhood home. As time passed, her cognition faded, as did her hearing. When I excitedly called her with fabulous news that we got a chocolate lab puppy, she said, “Oooh, I bet that will taste good.” She sure loved chocolate.
In her late 70s or early 80s she started falling a lot and getting hurt. When I was in early adolescence she had a grand mal seizure at a restaurant with my mom, sister and me. My sister and I were shuttled away from the commotion, having just witnessed our first seizure without knowing anything about them, and we huddled in a bathroom. My sister prayed. It was the first time I ever remember someone praying like that- fearfully begging God. I remember that stall as vividly as I remember our restaurant booth and the look on my mom’s face.
Grandma’s frequent falls were from seizures, which were from a brain tumor, and she eventually needed surgery to remove it. After months living at our house she was moved to a nursing home near my aunt’s house in Nebraska. The altitude was hard on her heart. She got a lot of love from my aunt and cousins, but was often hospitalized with pneumonia. She was graceful and peaceful through it all. I don’t once remember her complaining. Ever. I do remember her incessantly ringing a little bell when she needed help at our house. She’d ring, I’d go see what she needed, and she’d often not know why she had called. But she was so sweet about it all, not at all demanding, that I’d just smile. Sometimes I’d snuggle in beside her. To see her and not smile was nearly impossible. I loved laying by her side in that bed, cozy and warm.
Most of my memories of her are post-brain surgery, and I know she was dramatically different as a result, but man, she was darling. Towards the end of her life, when her language comprehension wasn’t stellar but her sweetness was at it’s height, you could tell her just about anything and she’d say, “Mmmm, yesssss. That’s nice.” Sometimes I wanted to say something like “Grandma, I drank a lot of beer and danced on tables” just to see if she’d say that same thing.
Man. She was so cute. The woman just radiated sweetness.
Like me, my sister adored her. Older than me, she holds even more memories and treasures of her. Grandma passed away in 2001, right about the time my sister found out she was pregnant. My niece Kayla was born on grandma’s birthday. How’s that for amazing? Makes me cry every time I think about it.
Happy 100th birthday, Grandma. You are dearly, dearly missed. And always will be.
(And if you read this, miss Kayla Jane, happy birthday to you, dear girl. You are a light. I think you got a huge dose of grandma’s kindness in your heart. I am honored to share a little bit of Grandma Jane with you and be your fellow KJ. I love you.)