I learned today of Granny's death after a long illness. She was 89 years old. In the past five years or so, because of bad osteoporosis, she broke her hip, collarbone, pelvis, and some vertebrae. All but the last time she returned home to the farm after a stay in rehab. This time she had to go to a nursing home. In the last weeks, she became progressively, drastically worse, so that at time she no longer recognized family members. In her last letter to me, just weeks ago, she sorrowed that she could no longer walk without help.
I have been anticipating this for some time, and am grateful that she has been loosed from the trouble that plagued her in the last years. I am pleased to know that she died in her sleep, with adequate pain control, and family by her side.
I remember her life.
Granny was born in a very small, rural town in 1917. In the 1930's she took the train some ten miles to go to high school, then continued on to college to earn a degree in higher mathematics. She went on to earn her master's degree in the 1960's. She taught upper math at the local high school, by this time, much closer to home, until retirement. Everyone in the school district remembers her as a tough math teacher and as a woman whose hair was snow white in her thirties. She used to sit in the living room and work calculus the way most people do the crossword puzzle.
As if a teaching career weren't enough, Grandma raised five children and worked on the farm. There were no TV dinners then, either. She shamed me throughout her life by her industry. I would bet that she was still mowing the grass in her eighties and only stopped then because the family made a pointed effort to mow it before she could get to it.
She made delicious candy at Christmastime and peanut butter eggs for Easter. There are many dishes that she is known for making best. Anytime we visited near mealtime, she insisted on cooking "a little something." I'm not sure if we ever had a meal there that didn't include dessert.
At times, I was afraid to open my mouth around her for fear of saying something stupid. She stayed informed of current events, and had a certain knack for knowing what things really meant.
By my best count, she is survived by her five children, twelve grandchildren, and ten or eleven great grandchildren.