Sunday, February 27, 2011


We lost my grandmother last week. My mother's mom- Alice. Also known as Granny Alley, Awice, Aleey-oop, or sometimes by her beloved husband as "The Old Gray Mare" which usually didn't go too well for him.

When people think of the perfect grandmother she is what they think of- curled gray hair that got "fixed" every week on Friday morning, editor of her church newsletter, founding member of her supper club. She was capable of a "Bless your heart" that was clearly a "Screw You" and in truly extreme circumstances she was capable of both. She always had a twisted off roll of thin mints in her freezer and Oreos in a jar on her counter. With my grandfather she bought a house to retire in, as close to her spread out brood as she could, and put in a pool, a treehouse, a swingset, a sandbox, and a trampoline. I don't think they could have been more clear about wanting to be involved grandparents.

She sewed prom dresses and Christmas pageant costumes. She made huge family meals, everything but the BBQ which was of course my grandfather's job. She quilted and knitted and did lovely embroidery, at least until her hands got arthritic and her eyes lost patience for tiny work.

She bought Hummel figurines to pass to the grandkids and she watched the neighbors houses when they went out of town. She had a "shrimp man" who sold her shrimp, an "egg lady" who brought her eggs, a "berry lady" who brought her blueberries and blackberries, and of course a favorite peach place in Fredericksburg. She and Ed knew the best place to get sausage in any small town in Texas.

She played "Who loves you?" and "give me some sugar" and more games of Candyland and Go Fish than anyone should ever have to and yet we completely believed that she loved every second of it. It's just slightly possible that she really did. Just like she loves watching our magic shows and swim meets and homecoming courts and school plays.

She asked about every game and every grade and was so deeply invested in the lives of her kids and grandkids- our biggest advocate always.

She watched every Texas game with a burnt orange shirt on and a cocktail in her hand. She sang "Geaux Tigers" along with the LSU band on TV. She watched White Christmas every year, with a bowl of nuts and a nutcracker on her table.

She loved pecan sandies and Willie Nelson and her garden but she HATED the water bill and so her plants sometimes didn't do as well as they could.

She made my cousin back in to the driveway so the neighbors wouldn't see the Obama sticker on her car.

She made a wonderful roux but not often, because my grandfather was the official gumbo expert in her home. And she kind of lost her heart for cooking when he went 8 years ago. She still made Christmas cookies most years, but I think she mainly loved feeding Ed, and her kids, and it wasn't such a priority after she lost him.

One of the most important things about her what that she was part of a team. She and my grandfather got married in September of 1941, and then they were apart for 4 years. My mom's first 3 Christmases included a propped up picture of my grandfather in uniform sitting under the tree, and when he finally got home safe from Europe, my grandparents were pretty much inseparable. Other than deer season of course. And dove season. And also ducks. Is there a season for ducks? If there is then he was probably gone for it.

After he died my grandmother found a sheet of notepaper where he had written "number of times Alice moved with me" and he'd listed 18 addresses. First in the army, and then in law school, and then working for Mobil Oil. Alley told me that when Ed would ask if she wanted to move again, she would say "Well, where are they going to send the check?"

They were a team- supporting each other and their kids in each new community. And their total delight in each other, even when it was expressed in less than endearing terms, is one of the things I'll remember most. Their marriage taught me a lot about how a good one works. At the stupid age of 20, when I said yes to Chase, I was swayed more than a little bit by the fact that my grandfather liked him. How lucky am I? To have had that model in my life?

And it's one of the reasons why losing Alley is not as sad as it could be. She wanted, more than anything, to be with Ed again. I will miss them both, and I will keep trying to be the kind of parent whose kids come home for a month every summer with the grandkids, because they want the kids to know us. I want to be the kind of grandparent (eventually) who signs up for multi-state, Yellowstone and Glacier Park road trip with the grandkids. And who backtracks when one of them leaves their Carebear in a motel in the middle of Kansas...

They anchored our family and brought us together. We were so so lucky to have had them both, and I hope they have each other again now.


The Williams Family said...

She was an incredible grandmother - I have plenty of memories of swimming in her pool and watching The Sound of Music at her house, and I wasn't even her granddaughter.

You wrote a beautiful tribute to her.

christie said...

This is a really lovely eulogy Kate. My sincere condolences. She sounds like a wonderful grandmother.

Sean and Jenny said...

I sincerely loved reading this. And basically everything on your blog now that I've found it. :-)
I'm glad you wrote this about your grandmother. It helps me notice and better appreciate the quirks in my own grandmothers.

davatron5000 said...

My condolences. Alice and I had some great times. I send my thoughts and prayers.

Sarah said...

That was so beautiful, Kate!! You are a wonderful, granddaughter, mother and you WILL be a wonderful grandmother someday, far, far in the future. I love you! I am so sorry for your loss. She was an amazing lady.