A Generation Gone: Farewell To My Grandmother

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My grandmother died a week ago. She was 92. A few more weeks, and she would have been 93. She was the last of my grandparents. She was a member of what Tom Brokaw once called “The Greatest Generation”. She lived through the Depression, the Second World War, the rise of the television and superhighways, the race to the moon, the age of disco, the advent of personal computers, the genesis and blooming of the internet and finally, a decade of war and discord.

My children certainly realized the gravity of her passing. When I told them that she was gone, my daughter said “She was our last great-grandmother and that makes me sad”. Of course, she doesn’t realize that she was extremely lucky to have known three great-grandmothers. Most of us have never known our great-grandparents. I myself was two years old when my only surviving great-grandmother died at 94 years of age. But her words made me think about the fact that soon, there will no longer be any members of that generation remaining. My grandmother was the link to that past, and with her gone, photos and memories are all that is left.

I am glad, though, that I knew her well, and that my children got to know her. Yet now I long for her knowledge gained over a long life. Not only for how the major events of those years impacted her life and those around her, but also for simply getting to know more about my family and its history. Unless asked directly, she did not talk much about those days gone by. Oh, sometimes she would mention events from her past. For instance, she would blow my children away with stories of how she grew up on a farm in Hammond, Ontario with no electricity and no plumbing. “There was no TV? What did you do?” was the question that was asked by my son. Another event that frequently came up was the fact that she had worked as a waitress at the Rideau Club for many years, where she had served the likes of Pierre Trudeau, amongst many other top Canadian politicians of her day. She said he was quite the gentleman. To me, that is pretty cool.

To be fair, however, she was much more interested in the present. She definitely had TV in her later years and loved watching CNN, especially Larry King, to keep up with what was going on. I remember quite well her disgust with the fact that O.J. Simpson got away with murder. She talked about that for months, if not years! She was always curious and ready to discuss issues with me, which was always a pleasure to me.

Like those of her generation, she was able to make miracles on a meagre income. It always amazed me that she was able to buy presents for all her grandchildren, and then, her great-grandchildren, on birthdays and Christmas. She was very careful with her money, and was able to live independently until the last year of her life, when her health deteriorated considerably. This is remarkable to me. Most of us living in the age of consumerism, where gadgets come out every few months, live on credit. We borrow to buy our homes, our cars, our televisions, our beds, etc. Her generation believed in paying in cash for things. If you wanted something, you saved and then bought it. The fact that she lived on her own (my grandfather died in 1973) for many years without having to borrow any money is truly amazing. There is a lesson in that.

Ultimately, my grandmother lived for her family. She was a bundle of energy and whenever we went to visit her, she would put that energy to good use. She would prepare food to feed an army (she made a kick ass baked beans), and insisted on everyone having a bite to eat, whether we were hungry or not. Even in her later years, when she needed a walker to remain mobile, she would put my children on its seat and wheel them around her apartment complex, just to hear them laugh and squeal with excitement. She wanted so much to know what was going on in our lives and to hear that all was well. Whenever too much time had passed before I visited her, she would certainly let me know about it, but in a nice way.

I suppose that is my greatest regret. I should have gone to see her more often. Of course, everyone says that after someone dies. But ultimately, what does a few hours spent visiting a grandparent cost us? Imagine when we will be old. We would want our grandchildren to visit us, to hear about what is going on with their lives and to be able to play with them and, if we’re lucky, their own children.

Farewell Grand-mère, you will be missed.

Jen also wrote something on this subject.

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17 Responses to “A Generation Gone: Farewell To My Grandmother”

  1. I am so sorry for your loss…

  2. OMG!!!! You are so Right on All Counts!!! I remember Meme as the most Loving, most Thoughtful, most Energetic and Always but Always the glass is always full kind of woman. I have the most wonderful memories of Her. She helped raise me when my Mom couldn’t and I believe I have a great heart and a great Son because of Her Love and Mentoring. Your Words brought tears to my eyes and heart because you so beautifully wrote of your thoughts of Her!! Bless You and Yours Always, Love Nicole xoxoxoxo

  3. Very well written Luc!

  4. I’m very sorry for your loss. I also lost my grandmother a few months ago and it was very difficult. I still miss her very much, but she was quite sick so I feel relieved for her too, if that makes sense.
    Take care. 🙂

    • Please accept my condolences on your loss. What you say does indeed make sense. I certainly hope that when my time comes, it will be quick and painless. However, I do admire the courage of those who fight for every inch of life, despite the pain.

      • Thank you. Quick and painless is the desired way for all, and it’s so hard (on the family, especially) when it’s not. :/

  5. Marc Richard Says:

    Luc, this is a very touching reflection on the wisdom that is lost when life, as full and as rich with experience as the one that you recall about your grandmother, comes to an end. It looks like much of that wisdom has been passed on to you, my friend. In sharing your thoughts like you did in this entry, you faithfully honor your grandmother by keeping her alive in your memories and in imparting some of the important lessons that she (and her generation) has taught you. A very, very, very well written piece!

  6. Kelly Fruhauf Says:

    Luc, I’m sorry for you and your family as you grieve the loss of this amazing woman. It sounds like it would have been a hoot to know her. I’m so glad she has left such a strong and loving legacy for those who knew and loved her. I wish the same for all of us.

  7. J’ai lu ton histoire de ta grand-mère . Bien dit. es oeuils étaient trempes. On t’aime gros.

    Tante Suzanne

  8. Jacques et Ana Says:

    Superbe Luc! BRAVO!

    Tu es tres talentueux et chaleureux….comme ton pere.

    Jacques et Ana

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