The only time mom came close to being truly angry is when I suggested tucking a pack of Gram's favorite smokes in the casket with her. Makes sense to me. When someone spends more than 70 years with the things, obviously it's something they love, and I don't mind tucking in things they love. I came very close to tucking in some cards, but could not decide which type of deck. Do you put in a pinochle deck, or a bridge deck? Large print version or smaller, hoping that her eyes are better where ever? IS the wrong deck insulting, or do you tuck in one of each? Just in case? And do you draw the line at including poker chips or M&Ms for markers, because while she never played for money, she certainly kept track of who won. In the end, we didn't tuck anything in with her, not even pics of her children and grandchildren, an action which *Gram* would have approved, as she was always very pragmatic. Dead is dead, she believed, and sentimental nonsense was just that- nonsense.
For my other grandmother, Meme, having a kleenex tucked into her sleeve was important. I took a kleenex and gathered tears of my aunt and mother and me, and tucked it into her sleeve. That way she was prepared. It's like a hitchhiker knowing where his towel is. That kleenex was ready for anything.
Lately I've been seeing odd movements out of the corner of my eyes. I have been doing this to a certain extent all of my life. But I did not enjoy watching the corpse twitch. I found it very unnerving. She would smile when someone told a joke or wave her nosegay with impatience. Maybe I was just wishing for these things.
Going through her house was so similar to all the times when I had been to visit before. She was always in another room and I was allowed to explore, provided I didn't go into drawers and closets. This time I was even allowed to go into the attic. Gram was rather organized, I think. Her loves were obvious. Her knicknacks were few for a woman of her age, but they were well chosen for whimsy and reminding her of things. Glass boots, Hummels, and Dutch windmills. The cloth dolls that she made were boxed and priced. The dolls she bought naked and clothed were also neatly stacked in her sun room. I picked out a doll in an outrageous crocheted dress she had made, for the modest $2.00 written with an unsteady hand. I got a few of her cloth dolls, but upstairs in the "girls room" I found her fabric stash and her box of cloth doll patterns. So now I know where she got them from. There are envelopes of traced out paper patterns with a lot of pin holes. In the attic were three bags of lace. I didn't take it all, but I admit I wanted to. I just knew I wasn't going to use it all, so I should not take it all. Even if Uncle Bob wanted to toss what I didn't take.
I found boxes of recipes. I found a "Modern Housekeeping Encyclopedia" published in 1949. I pulled out of the kitchen the purple desert/cereal bowls. The one time I slept over, I had breakfast in one. Every time we had dinner cooked by Gram, we had ice cream in the bowls with our pie or cake. Gram didn't serve one dessert -- everything was ala mode. I pulled out the casserole dish that the horrible jellow came in. It was, I think, apple or clear aspic with celery and nuts, and it was awful. But Dead Bird Day wasn't complete if Gram was there without this horror on the table, just like a ring mold of Mom's lime jello with cottage cheese and pineapple. I have the dish to remind me, but I don't feel oblidged to use it for that. I'm sure I'll find something that will fit the dish. Maybe my meatloaf, so I stop ruining metal bread pans with the cutting knife.
I grabbed the parrot that dangled off the pull of the light on the stairs- the light is at the top of the stairs, but the string reaches all the way to the first floor, dangling the wooden parrot. While I don't have a good spot to dangle the parrot, like the wooden duck from Meme, I'll keep in my kitchen to remind me. I haven't hung the wooden thingie that pictures two dutch children and a slogan requesting to leave a message, and when opened stores pencil and paper. I evicted the spiders, but it still needs a cleaning. I'll put it in the mudroom, I think. My brother and I used to leave Gram and Grandpa Walt love notes. I don't expect any in it, but that memory is important to me. Just like the cowbells on the back door. I haven't hung the bells on my own door yet, but I remember them jangling every time we went over. No one was sneaking into Gram's with those bells!
I also found an old quilt. No clue who started it, but I could tell Gram had used it and repaired it. I took it, so I could also try repairing it with pieces of her stash. My brother wanted the sewing machine cabinet, because he thinks his wife's sewing machine will go into it. I don't think so. But I'm willing to take that machine and its accessories to complete its partner, since I have a matching sewing machine from my other gram. They are both roughly 1949 Wards sewing machines. Iron monsters, and durable.
But the best thing was finding the photo album of Gram's grandparents and their relations. She identified who she could. Apparently these people also lived in the area and ran a bakery, and that's where our Dutch Letter recipe came from. One of these days, perhaps soon, I'll make some.
I no longer really feel like I lost my gram. I found her. I gathered more memories and learned more about her and her family than I had known. I never knew she was the oldest of five, and that Dorothy died before the age of 4 because she was born without a rectum. I'd heard of Koenerd and John and Dick, but I didn't know they were her bothers, or that Dick was still alive and in the area. I got to see him and talk to him, and he certainly has the charm and pragmatism of our family. I didn't know Gram wasn't blonde. She was born blonde with hair that naturally darkened, like mine did. And she got her piercing blue eyes from her grandmother.
I feel rather blessed in knowing her so well and in her very gentle departure. I should be so lucky, really.