When we visited Grandma Bessie in July, she made it clear that she felt like she'd done enough in this world and was ready to move on. I would say that she was right about having done enough, from freezing to a mule in Northern Minnesota to moving to Colorado with her mother and (gasp!) boyfriend, Franklin, during WWII to marrying that boyfriend (phew!) and building a home and a family with him on top of a hill in Wenatchee, Washington. She never stopped going. When we visited her this summer she was still volunteering at an old folks home, a category in which she never placed herself, even in her 80s, and running up ladders to trim trees or fix window blinds.
The first time I visited Grandma Bessie was just a few months after Eric and I started dating. She picked us a giant box of apricots and baked us a big bag of chocolate chip cookies to take on the drive home with us. During our drive to Yellowstone the next day, Eric and I ate nothing but apricots and cookies -- the first time I've ever had as many apricots as I wanted. What a treat!
When we got home, I sent her some pictures from our visit since her most recent picture of Eric had been his high school graduation photo from six years before. She wrote back, signing her name "Eric's Grandma Bessie." I think she wanted to be clear that while she thought I was a nice girl, I'd have to earn my way into the family. I knew I'd made it when one of the long letters she wrote us closed with, "Love to you both, Grandma Bessie." She wrote us a lot of nice, long letters, and every one was a treat to read...even the ones where she harassed us about having moved to Minnesota, a state she was glad to escape.
Although she was always concerned about her figure, Grandma Bessie seemed intent on ruining ours. Every Christmas, we received the most tremendous box of goodies you can imagine. Seriously, our freezer was full of baked goods to last us through Easter at least each year. Every time we went to visit, she made us amazing meals, all involving large quantities of butter. I'm still not impressed with liver, though...but she knew Eric loved it, and she loved Eric A LOT.
This is the first major family event we've missed because we're living on the other side of the world. We're probably going to miss a lot of weddings, funerals, births, and graduations over the next few years, so I guess this feeling of separation is something we'll have to get used to . That being said, I don't think anyone was excited about our move as we travelled around this summer as Grandma Bessie was. She loved to see new places, and she loved that we were off on an adventure.
There are just some people who you feel lucky to have known, and I think one of the little gifts I got from being with Eric was being adopted by Grandma Bessie. I never felt happier than when sitting on her porch staring out across the valley, listening to tell stories about the farm or building the house or driving through Alaska. I'm really sad that I won't get to visit her again, but when she told us she was ready to go this summer, I don't know why we wouldn't have assumed she'd get her way. She generally did.