Grannie, on the left. I think there’s a photo of me at the same age, with the same haircut and the same expression.
My grandmother, Evelyn Alexandra Winer (nee Gilmour) was born in the middle of The Depression into a household which would, eventually, contain nine children and two cousins. She was just five when her mother passed away in childbirth, along with the baby, leaving the leaving the older kids to raise their younger siblings. The children minded the house, worked the garden, and helped their father on the family farm, bringing in the hay and loading up trucks of turnips to make ends meet.
Sandy, ready to play ball.
Granny grew up very social and active. She loved baseball, and she was a fielder and short-stop for the local all-ladies team during the war. Her nickname was Sandy then, and her catcher Doris eventually became her sister-in-law by what I’m given to understand was some good old fashioned lady-plotting.
Rumor, or family fantasy, has it in our family that Granny and Aunt Doris might have been part of the inspiration for a certain pair of characters in the film A League of Their Own, as their skills led to a Calling-Up – for a time they both played in the U.S., Hamilton, and Toronto.
When she could no longer play, Granny still went down to the Badenoch and Morriston diamonds on weeknights to watch cousins, neighbours, grandchildren, and friend’s kids run the bases. A few years ago, my cousin’s team and my brother’s team were facing off and a bunch of us went down to enjoy the game. One of my cousins made a double-sided sign cheering them both on, which she would flip depending on who was up to bat. And Granny spent the whole time keeping score and telling everyone how the players would be doing so much better if they could just “Get behind the ball!” (This was a life-long refrain; I remember hearing it at my T-ball games and my brother’s little league tournaments.)
I’m given to understand that prior to the outbreak of WWII, Granny had a crush on a young man – a farmer’s son and her brother’s friend – named Roy Winer.
Poppa, being all swoon-worthy.
When Canada joined the fight, Poppa lied about his age to enlist and worked his way up to Flight Sergeant/Air Gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was very tight-lipped about his time overseas, so we didn’t know much of what he did, except for amusing anecdotes about antics he got up to on the base during training. One involved someone grabbing him by the ankles so he wouldn’t fall out of the plane while he hung out of an opened bomb hatch so he could take a nice photo of the base from the air.
Yes, I made Robin a sergeant in The Skylark’s Saga on purpose.
Poppa avoided the Nazi guns and made it home safely, only to find himself in Granny’s crosshairs. I’m not entirely sure how the courting went, but I can imagine there was a lot of Granny saying “Oh for god’s sake, Roy, just pick me up at seven.”
Granny had little patience for dithering, flimflam, hesitation, lack of decisiveness, sniffling children (which resulted in Vick’s Vaporub on a Q-Tip shoved up your nose; lots of fun when you’re a kid like me with hay-fever triggered by coming to visit the farm), and your long hair getting in your face at the dinner table (punished with a tight French braid; there’s a reason I prefer my hair short).
On the day Granny and Poppa were headed to the courthouse to sign their wedding paperwork, they took a car that only sat two. But of course, when they arrived, they learned that Granny was – at the time – too young to sign the certificate on her on own behalf. Her father had to give his permission in writing.
As the car only sat two, Poppa left Granny sitting on the courthouse steps for hours as he went back to the Gilmour farm to fetch his would-be father-in-law to complete the licence.
Vehicular abandonment was to be a theme. Not long after their wedding, on an extremely icy New Years Eve, a quite-pregnant-with-her-first-daughter Granny and Poppa stopped their car in the dip between two hills because someone else’s car had been abandoned on the side of the road. The car belonged to a friend, and it had quit in the cold. They found their friend halfway up the hill and the friend walking home with his own battery under his arm to plug it back in and try again in the morning.
Poppa took the battery out of his own car to boost his friends, and then set his own back on his runnerboard instead of putting back under the hood like he should have. Trying to crest the slippery hill from a dread stop, they nearly lost the battery into a snowbank.
Happy New Year indeed.
Granny and Poppa loved one another fiercely, loyally, and steadfastly. I will be lucky beyond measure to find someone who loves me the way that Poppa loved my Granny, and to love the way my Granny loved him. I am unaccountably saddened that I have yet to have love, or been loved, the way my Granny and Poppa did one another. And that I wasn’t able to introduce her to someone like that to Granny before she passed, so she knew that I had someone in my life. I know that what Granny and Poppa had was something very, very special.
Poppa and Grannie
Poppa wanted to name his first son after the first Winer ancestor in the area – a man who had been emigrating with his family via covered wagon from the States to New Berlin (now Kitchener). The wagon kept breaking and he swore that the next time it happened, he was going to build the new house right there, dammit. It broke again just south of Guelph, Ontario, in a little hamlet that would eventually become Morriston. The cabin he built for his family can be seen to your left when you drive north up highway 6 from Hamilton, (or on the right if you drive south down Hwy 6 from Guelph ) along with several other buildings which the family built and moved into the longer they stayed at the farm. The property is still in the family, and that wagon has since been repaired for use by descendants.
Roy Winer never got his boy, though. (Don’t worry, my mom gave that name to my brother). What he did get was five amazing, incredible, hardworking, honest, and loving girls – along with his wife, Poppa called them his Five Of A Kind and Ace. Granny and Poppa were killer card players and unbeatable Euchre partners. I recall many post-family-meal nights where the kids played with toys on the ground, and the adults got out the packs of cards and started ribbing each other. Eventually the kids on the ground grew up and joined in the card playing, and though I don’t have a head for it, several of my cousins became just as sharp at Euchre as Granny.
Five of a Kind and their Ace at Grannie’s 90th Birthday
Through their daughters, Granny and Poppa got thirteen kind, clever, and generous grandchildren. Poppa used to say that it doesn’t matter if you’re a ditch digger in life, so long as you’re the best ditch digger you can be. They instilled in us a sense of hard work, an appreciation for community and creativity, and a close love of family. At the annual family Christmas, we were encouraged to sing, dance, play saxophone, recite a poem, tell a joke, and on several memorable occasions, embarrass the heck out of our aunt’s boyfriends with silly skits.
And though Poppa never had the chance to meet them before he passed, he and Granny were graced with three curious great-grandsons who overflow with joy and love. And whom Granny doted on.
The day my grandparents met my Dad, he’d been invited up to the farm for, if I’m remembering correctly, a meal and what was likely a test when it came to dragging him out to the barn for chores. City-boy that he was, my Dad arrived on a motorcycle with a freshly-permed 1970s white-boy ‘fro courtesy of his older sister. I understand that Granny and Poppa talked it over and decided to be open-minded about him, despite the wretched hair.
My father went on to have a great relationship with my grandparents, and loved them both very much. Even if Poppa threatened Dad with the snips used to castrate the bulls if he got my mom pregnant a fourth time.
My grandparents made a wonderful life in a very difficult profession. Farming was never a sure bet, and it was back-breaking labour. Though, luckily enough, with their siblings farming close by and eventually, enough boyfriends, husbands, and partners who came along, there were always many hands to make the work light. (My hay-fever and I stayed inside during harvest-time and made sandwiches and coffee for the hard workers when needed).
But when times were good, they were generous in their financial support, and implemented a clever system whereby loans could be requested by their daughters by putting a slip of paper in a teapot on a shelf. They could also be repaid the same way, discreet and private, so the embarrassing money question could be handled gently and respectfully. To this day, when I need to borrow a sum from my parents, we call it a “Teapot Loan”.
Granny and Poppa had a sugarbush out the back of the farm, and if you’ve ever visited one, you probably know how much hauling and work goes into making maple syrup, especially if the bush is still using the bucket-and-tap system. I can think of at least two or three March Breaks spent not in Florida or at a ski resort like my classmates, but in the back bush hauling tin buckets to the big blue rain barrel that was being carted around before it was eventually dumped into the simmering pan in the sugar shack.
But oh man, that maple syrup? It was so worth it.
Nothing I’ve had since we finished the last recycled Cheez-Whiz jar of the homemade stuff has ever tasted as good.
I expect no Maple Syrup will ever taste that good again.
Andrew Gilmor and his children at the youngest’s wedding. Grannie is third from the right.
The Gilmour clan, Granny and her siblings, were part of a larger family of Ords. Like many quintessential rural Ontario farming communities, neighbours are close, families don’t move far away, children take over their parent’s farms, and everyone is tight. This past summer, our family celebrated the 68th annual Ord Reunion, where the descendants of my Granny’s own Grandpa gather to spend an afternoon together reminiscing, welcoming the new babies or spouses and toasting the dearly departed, studying the family tree or the albums on albums of family photos, newspaper clippings, and announcements. We share a massive potluck, play games, run races, and battle it out for the highly prized annual Shoe Kick trophy.
Listening to an original song written for the Ord Reunion.
Kicking butt in the obstacle course.
Granny served as both secretary and treasurer of the picnic for forty years, and relinquished the duties this past summer. She always took up the collection, booked the one-room school house for the day, and took the meeting minutes. I can clearly envision that red plastic binder filled with pages and pages of lined school paper filled with her sloped, clear handwriting.
After Poppa passed, Granny wore his wedding ring on a necklace pretty much every day for nearly sixteen years. When she missed Poppa particularly, she would put on a zip-up Polar Fleece jacket that had been his, and wear it around the house (maybe that’s why she kept the place so damnably cold all the time). When she was moved to the hospice, my mom made sure to bring the jacket and drape it across the back of one of the chairs in her room. When she passed, the staff at the hospice dressed her in her own housecoat and laid the jacket across her chest, so Poppa was giving her a hug.
For all that she was stern sometimes (I remember tales of my aunts and mother fleeing to Aunt Doris’ house down the country block when Granny was in a temper. I did the same myself the day I was flighty and burned a pie, and thus was rightfully scolded), my Granny was so kind, and so loving, and so generous with her time and attention.
She was motherly in small, quiet ways that were no less fierce for their understatedness.
Granny drove all over to attend province-wide volleyball championships, dance recitals, plays, graduation ceremonies, dedications, grand openings, book launches, and celebrations. On one memorable occasion, she travelled for a full day to take in my brother’s graduation and was utterly enraptured and fascinated by the keynote speaker – a Colonel Chris Hadfield.
I’m told she hung on his every word.
Grannie and I at the Book Launch Party for “Triptych” in 2011.
Granny was also very thoughtful with her time and home. Food and cooking were important to her, and were the medium through which she showed a lot of love.
Granny hated to throw away leftover food, and genuinely enjoyed Liver and Onions. She made the best pies on the planet, and the best pancakes, too.
We sometimes called her The Sergeant Major, because she could certainly marshal a meal together. Christmas lunch on Boxing Day was a feat of organization – long tables downstairs for dozens of people, bowls of buns, and corn, and beans being marched from the upstairs kitchen by dutiful grandkids, a massive turkey big enough to stick your head into being carved on the kitchen counter, jug upon jug of tomato juice, apple juice, orange juice, and of course, wine. So much gravy that we poured it from carafes and pottery milk-bag holders.
When I graduated from my Master’s program, Granny cracked a bottle of bubbly that had been in her cold pantry since it’d been given to her and Poppa for one of their milestone anniversaries. In that same pantry you’d find a literal bucket of flour, waiting to be turned into tasty treats, and shelves of homemade pickles (dill, sweet, and icicle), chili sauce with peaches, and the coveted strawberry jam.
“Is it Granny’s jam?” is the first thing that is asked by any family member if offered jam in an aunt’s or cousin’s house, implying that if the jam is store-bought, the answer to the offer may be a polite No, thank you.
Her tipple of choice was a rum and Pepsi, served in a tall glass with two ice cubes. How do you measure the rum for the drink? You pour until the ice floats. This is known among my friends as a “Granny pour” of booze. Making drinks for one another, we ask: “Do you want just a shot in your cocktail – or do you want a Granny pour?” Of course, she’d add the remaining can of Pepsi slowly over the course of the evening, so the drink got weaker as the night went on.
One for me, one for Granny.
You could always find a battered mint-green tin of cookies in her freezer or in the cupboard under the microwave, which she pretended not to notice that she had to refill whenever a grandchild had come to call. No holiday meal was complete without her pies, and when one of my cousins was diagnosed as Celiac, lemon-meringue pies without the crust, made in parfait glasses, could also be found on the dessert table.
Various cousins have lived with Granny over the years while attending school, or needing to save on rent while searching for work, or looking to buy a home. Granny had a habit of cooking an entire package of bacon at a time, instead of just what she wanted to eat, so when these tired grandkids came home from school or work, they would find that the Bacon Fairy had visited and left a container in the fridge.
She made this salad dressing with vinegar, milk, and sugar that I hated as a kid and love now, especially when drizzled over the fresh lettuce pulled from her garden. Right up to this past summer Granny’s victory garden thrived – she always ended up with more potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries and rhubarb than she could eat herself, and you would be sent home with absolute bags of dirty veggies pulled from the ground that very morning.
Several years ago, Granny was cleaning out her closets and she had an absolute glory of a black dress coat that was as 1980s as it could possibly be. Hobble-skirt hem, big naval buttons, poofy sleeves, black velvet collar. Poppa had bought it for her to wear to church, worried that the community would think ill of him if his wife kept showing up in an old worn coat. like he couldn’t afford to keep her in style. Granny told me she’d never worn the fancy coat, not once, because she was a farmer’s wife, and she was proud to be a farmer’s wife, so she was perfectly happy to look like one, too.
She and one of my aunts came over one afternoon to drop it off for me to have, as my love of cosplay and costuming was well known by then. They offered to take me out for lunch, but I decided to make a meal myself instead. I had the very great pleasure of introducing my Granny to Butter Chicken Curry and Roasted Cauliflower for the first time. And I wear that coat any time I have somewhere fancy to go – the theatre, the opera, and most recently, to my friend’s glam wedding.
My aunt got all of our favourite Granny recipes made into a book a few Christmases ago, so I think I will be doing a lot of canning and baking in the next few months. And drinking rum and Pepsis.
Granny’s love didn’t end at blood relations.
She babysat, watched over, mentored, helped, or partially-raised pretty much half of the community. Including three young Japanese boys whose parents had moved to Puslinch, Canada in the 80’s. While Poppa and their father were in the barn, comparing Japanese and Canadian farming techniques, Granny helped the boys with their English home work. I remember being absolutely thrilled to have my name written in Japanese on the inside flap of a backpack when I was younger.
Most of the family moved back to Japan eventually, and when I applied to the Japanese Exchange Teachers Programme out of my undergrad, I requested to be placed in a school on the same island that my Japanese uncles lived on, and was.
At my local train station.
With Yukio and Hasako, former neighbours.
I’ve never seen Granny prouder than when she was reunited with that family in Japan – she came to visit me with my parents while I was living there, and the family was moved to repay my Granny for the kindness and generosity she had shown them in Canada. We were toured around, and feasted, and treated like royalty.
That was also the day my then-78-year-old Granny beat me up the steps to the caldera of a live volcano. And this was before the knee injury, because the bike I crashed in the accident was the one Granny bought me before she returned to Canada.
It was extremely moving to watch my Granny take in Hiroshima. Of course, her husband had been an aviator, and the bombing had happened in her lifetime. She remembered it, all of it, everything from the news, but she had never seen anything about it from the Japanese point of view.
Hiroshima A-bomb Dome Park, for those who have never been, is a brutally blunt experience. The building the bomb exploded directly above was the only one to survive for miles around – everything else was leveled. And they’ve left it leveled. There is a peacefulness to the place, a quiet promise made through clenched teeth to never let this happen again, and the monuments are inspiring. But there’s also a begging quality to it – please, please, please, this place says. Granny walked through all of it, stopped and read every plaque, with her hands folded behind her back and her mouth in a firm line.
She was taking it all in, thoughtful, respectful, and very, very moved. She was quite quiet for the rest of the day, and when we asked her what she thought of it, she had a few poignant words about what a tragedy it was, and how terrible it must have been.
Dad pointed out to me privately, later, that it was likely she was thinking a lot of those pilots who dropped the bombs, and how she and Poppa would have felt if he’d been part of the crew who’d been asked to do it.
The one thing Granny vowed when my parents invited her to visit Japan with them was that she refused to eat raw fish. She would not try it, and that was final. So I took them out to my favourite yakitori izakaya when they arrived, which was extremely traditional. Everything was written in kanji, and no one spoke English. The izakaya only served traditional Japanese booze too – sake, ume-shu, chu-hai, and Japanese beer. She was flabbergasted to learn that, after a bit of back and forth, the place didn’t even stock rum.
Luckily she’d picked some up at duty-free on the way into the country, like I’d advised my mom to do, because I hadn’t figured out where to buy any myself.
But I did want to share the fun of a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant with my family at least once while they were there, so I had arranged for us to go to one for lunch after we toured the school I worked at. I figured Granny would order some noodles and salad. Much to all of our surprise, when I brought them into the restaurant and showed them how to take a plate, make yourself some hot tea, and where to stack the empties, Granny dove right in and popped some sashimi into her mouth with her fingers.
We were so proud of her for trying the cuisine, and for eating so much of it! It was a wonderful meal with lots of laughter. Of course, later we learned that Granny remembered nothing about that lunch. She’d taken some Benadryl to combat an allergy attack brought on by the fresh paint at the school, and it made her so foggy that she hadn’t even realized she was eating raw fish.
Granny was also so very engaged in her community. She was part of the Ladies Auxiliary at church, was an usher and offering-counter, taught Sunday school, raised money for charity, baked for the Christmas Bazaar and Children’s Christmas Concert, and was a part of the Fireside Group, which had it’s 50th anniversary just last week.
This was a gathering of church members who would get together and share stories, read poems they’d written or articles from the paper they’d found interesting, and discuss the news of the day. I sang for the group once, when I was a teenager, and was so nervous I totally forgot the words to the song before I went up, and had to hide in the choir room writing them out on a paper to jog my memory before I could perform.
Granny had a whole talk prepared for the occasion of the Fireside’s anniversary, and was absolutely determined to attend despite her declining health. When her daughter came to take her to the event, Granny admitted that she couldn’t make it and sent along her speech (carefully re-constructed by said daughter from little hints scattered on tiny pieces of paper in an envelope) for someone else to read.
Granny helped to serve the food at funerals held at the church. It was always the usual spread of tiny cubes of cheese, carrot and celery sticks, cookies and coffee, and quartered sandwiches on white bread – salmon or tuna salad, roast beef and mustard, ham and cheese. When the grieving family had left the church, Granny and the other volunteers would pack up the leftovers and parcel them out to take home. Granny’s daughters jokingly called this ‘Dead Food’ when it showed up at the house to be eaten by the family. In my thirty-seven years I’ve attended a few of these church-catered funerals, and been sent home with my own packages of Dead Food, too.
One of my first thoughts after my aunt called with the devastating news that Granny had passed, was that someone else’s hands were going to arrange the sandwiches on those same church-owned platters for her funeral. That someone else was going to have to lay out the cookies. That someone else was going to have to wrestle with that massive old coffee percolator that is half the size of me. That someone else is going to wash those teacups. That someone else was going to have to take home the leftover Dead Food when my family and I have left to try to find some way to spend the rest of our lives without her.
While organizing the funeral, one of my aunts texted her sisters with the message “The Dead Food has been arranged.” And it struck me again that someone else is going to be in that kitchen. Not her. Not us.
I think, to me, that is one of the most difficult things to handle – that it won’t be Ev Winer in that kitchen on that day, like she always was. That she won’t be there, comforting the family of the recently deceased with nibbles, and shoulder-pats, and tiny quartered sandwiches.
That is what breaks my heart the most.
That I’ll be eating Dead Food she didn’t make.
My father called me last week, and told me it was time to come home. The last time I had seen Granny, she was tired but attentive at the family Thanksgiving. Our family comes together five or so times a year to celebrate the big holidays together, and we average around 30 to 40 people, so we can get pretty noisy.
But gosh is that house ever full of love when we all congregate.
Granny sat at the table and plowed her way through a plate with a sample of everyone’s dishes, and had a lovely little conversation with everyone who took turns sitting next to her.
The Skylark’s Sacrifice, book two of the Skylark Duology, had just come out a few weeks prior. I gave Granny a copy of all my books for her Brag Shelf as they were released, but this one was special. Book #1 was dedicated to my Poppa. Book #2 was dedicated to her.
Whose love and patience were always larger than I sometimes thought I deserved,
but who always made sure we all had more than enough.
Granny had mentioned before that she’d read some of my books, but that they weren’t quite to her taste. She preferred John Grisham, and Michael Chricton. On one memorable occasion, she showed me a Richard Castle novel she was really enjoying and didn’t quite understand when I tried to explain to her that the handsome man on the back of the book wasn’t the author, he was an actor named Nathan Fillion who played a mystery writer named Richard Castle on TV.
That Thanksgiving, I gave her a copy of The Skylark’s Sacrifice, and pointed out the dedication. She said she was looking forward to it, but I expected that she wouldn’t actually read it. One of my cousins had the brilliant idea to get Granny to record us all special messages to put into a Build-A-Bear last Christmas, and my message is:
Jessica, I love you. I’ll finish those books eventually. Merry Christmas.
I called Granny most Sunday afternoons for about nine months, just to fill her in on my life and to hear all about hers and the silly things a bunch of old-timers like she and her siblings got up to.
And she never told me she’d read the books. She never commented on them. I never knew.
Last week, I arrived at the hospital straight from the bus station, and took her hand. She said, “I think it’s time for you to go.” My brother had been there for about twenty minutes at this point, and I guess she was talking to him. Surprised, I replied:
“Okay, if that’s what you want.”
She opened her eyes and said, “Oh, it’s you, Jessica. You can stay.”
My brother, Dad, and I settled in.
She bobbed between sleep and wakefulness, in pain and exhausted, but she eventually turned to me and said, “Did you find a roommate?” (During my last call I had confessed to her that I’d lost my dayjob and I was worried that if I couldn’t find a high-paying enough one to replace it, I’d have to get a roommate again and sacrifice my office/spare room.)
“I’m still looking for a dayjob,” I replied. “When I have one, I’ll know whether I’ll need a roommate or not.”
Dad made a joke about how Granny should come live with me in my spare room. “Sure,” I said. “That’s a great idea.”
“Are you going to Milton now?” she asked.
“I’ve just come from Milton; Dad picked me up at the bus station.”
“Oh,” she said.
She drifted off a bit, and when she had come round again I said, “So hey, I don’t think I got to tell you on our last call, but I won a pretty big literary award for one of my books.” (Or, at least, you know, I tried to say all that around the burning lump in my throat and my crackling voice.) She didn’t respond to that. I said, “Did you read the book I gave you at Thanksgiving?”
“Yes,” she said, and it sounded a bit like there should be an of course, you silly girl at the end of that.
I didn’t really believe her though, not sure she actually understood the question. But later, one of my aunts told me that Granny had powered through every single one of my novels in the last few weeks, including the Skylark books.
I expect she’ll be recounting all the stories to Poppa eventually. She’s a good storyteller, and always was. She gave great speeches. I come by my abilities honestly.
At the hospice, they had this art piece on the wall made of woven strips of fabric. You could write a message on a tag and tie it to this quilt. I wrote:
Thank you for passing all the best of you onto me.
I am so lucky to have been loved by you.
I love you overwhelmingly.
Our last photo together.
Keeping warm at Thanksgiving.
After dinner chats at Thanksgiving.
My Granny went exactly as she had always said she wanted to – between one breath and the next. In the 1970s, when her father could no longer care for himself, he moved in with Granny, Poppa, and the five girls. One night at dinner, he exhaled, leaned against the person sitting next to him, closed his eyes, and was gone. Granny had always said she wanted to go like that.
When Granny and Poppa retried from farming, they severed some of the property to keep for themselves, sat down with some of their daughters and a piece of paper and a pencil, and drew up a house. It had to have a basement big enough to seat everyone at one long table for Christmas, and lots of bedrooms to tuck sleepy grandchildren into. Poppa only got a few years in that beautiful home, spending evenings watching the pond from the chair at the big front window.
Mother’s Day was spent at Granny’s in the annual garden clean up – re-edging the flower gardens, putting up the flag, splitting and moving around the hostas, mulching the flower beds, repainting the porch columns and restaining the deck, putting up the canvas canopy, trimming the trees, and pulling up all the Hens and Chicks that had reproduced like mad and were taking over the garden. But we were rewarded with Chinese food, and beer, and a sunny afternoon spent together while the Sergeant Major walked around the property, inspecting, directing, and bestowing a kind word on every hard worker.
Granny lived in the house she built with Poppa for sixteen years after his passing, and had decided that she would not leave. And while cleaning help had to come in every once and a while, and ramps needed to be built, and sons-in-law and grandkids had to be employed to roto-till the garden and pick the weeds, and neighbours employed to blow out the driveway, Granny also spent her last days in that house, too.
She eventually agreed to go into hospital, assuming she’d get better enough to return home and pass in her own bed. Regrettably, from hospital she went to hospice, and we had only two days to make our goodbyes.
Granny waited until all three of her remaining siblings had come to visit, and while her baby sister was in the room, took one breath, let it out, and never took another.
Granny had these white and blue Corelle coffee cups and I remember them from all the way back at the old farmhouse. I wasn’t much of a coffee or tea drinker then, but I can vividly recall Poppa sitting in his chair with one of those cups. The chair was back from the table, against the wall and under the telephone shelf, and his strong hands wrapped around one of these mugs. He’d have just come in from morning chores and smelled of barn, and his fingernails were dirty as he warmed his fingers around the mug.
The coffee mug.
Granny kept those mugs, and Mom brought two of them to the hospice so she and Poppa could have coffee together again when everything was done.
My hope is that on this sunny morning, they are having coffee together. And that my Granny is saying, “Well now, hello, love. Here’s a cup. Let me fill you in on what you’ve missed.”