Granny’s Journey

Granny’s Journey

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Granny’s Journey

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom.

Henri Frederic Amiel

Deep in my memory as a teenager is my grandmother’s attempt to shake me awake on Sunday mornings. “Oh! Granny, please,” I’d plead. “I’m so tired and sleepy. I’ll go next week. Promise.” At that age, getting in early from a Saturday night date so I could stay awake in church on Sunday morning wasn’t on the top of my priority list.

But she’d taunt me, “Well, young lady, why am I not surprised you’re weak from fatigue? Funny thing to me, you’re not too tired to carouse around on Saturday night, but you can’t give the Lord your time on Sunday. Come on now, it won’t do to be late. Get up and get dressed.”

And I would.

Grandmother Nora was a tall, handsome, fashionable woman. When she came to live with my mother, older sister and me, she was active, creative, determined and eighty years old. She’d made a fine reputation for herself as a talented tailor in the early 1920s. It paid the bills as she raised her three daughters. In those days there were few elegant department stores and no boutiques available to women of fashion. Their in-vogue wardrobes came from talented seamstresses like my grandmother.

She still loved sewing and seemed always to be working on a project. She told me she had one more heart’s desire, to make choir robes for her church and give them as her final gift before she died.

Tension reigned with three generations in one small apartment. Granny and I, the oldest and the youngest, became a support team for each other. But even then we often disagreed. Her rules and traditions didn’t fit my generation. At times there was real door-slamming tension between us. I realize now it was because we were so much alike. She saw herself in me and used any effective means, from pressure to bribes, to ensure that her look-alike granddaughter would be equipped with God’s rules. Over time, we formed a truce of love and respect. We were quite a combination: a teenager yearning to fly and a granny whose wings had been clipped by age.

My mother, newly divorced, was also trying to make the best of several difficult situations. Returning to the workforce after many years away, raising two daughters alone and the irritation of her mother’s sewing mess severely tested her patience.

One evening, arriving home later and more frazzled than usual, she looked at Granny’s strewn fabric and with a stern expression said, “Mama, you must quit all this sewing. I simply won’t come home every evening to this mess. Can’t you just enjoy retirement and rest?”

Granny didn’t want an argument. Peace was her game. Without a word, she winked at me and quietly went about cleaning up the room, putting away her sewing machine and packing up fabric. The next day she called a taxi and moved to the rooming house of a lady she knew from her church.

When Mother read the brief note Granny left her, she was shocked and saddened. Although they patched things up, Granny never came back, thinking it best to remain independent as long as she could.

During the next few years, spending many hours with her, I began to experience and understand the great lady as never before. No one else could have prepared me to meet life’s opportunities like she did. I’d go by after school, and later, when I began to work as a model at Neiman Marcus, she was eager to hear all the exciting details of the clothes and fashion shows. As we shared our lives, I watched her finish twenty-seven heavy, faille burgundy robes with fluted backs for her church choir on her old treadle sewing machine. Listening to the details of her difficult life and her love of her Lord made a great impression on my young mind and guided many of my decisions.

Years later when Granny was diagnosed with cancer, she moved to a small town in Texas where another of her daughters could care for her at home. By that time I’d married, moved to Colorado and had a four-month-old baby.

Granny’s illness was long and extremely agonizing. In those days there weren’t many miracle drugs for pain. Mother kept me posted on my grandmother’s shocking weight loss and described her terrible suffering. Yet, through it all, her faith remained constant.

When the end was near Mother told me Granny wept, saying, “I’m ready to go, but I’ve seen everyone except Ruthie. I must see her.” I was the only one in the family who had found it impossible to make the trip to say good-bye.

Late one night, at home in Colorado, I was jolted awake and found myself sitting upright in bed. Someone had called my name aloud, yet my husband remained asleep beside me. It was Granny’s voice I’d heard. Then I saw her standing in the corner of my dark bedroom. I could see her quite clearly. A shimmering radiance of light shone upon her. She looked just as I remembered her years before, smiling, healthy and vibrant. The love in her eyes for me was a hug that would last through the years. The vision lasted long enough for me to know I was fully awake and reminded me of a quote by Frances Bacon, “If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.”

I did not sleep much more that night, my mind occupied with memories of her.

When Mother called me the next morning to tell me Granny had died in the night, I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t tell her for quite some time that Granny had stopped by to see me as she ended her earthly journey. I was savoring it as my own private moment with someone who had sewn in me seamless faith and love.

Ruth Hancock

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