Thinking about Granny B

I do not normally talk much about my extended family, and that is mainly because we are all so spread out around th country that I don’t see them very often. Hell, I only see my Mom and Sister once or twice a year. When it comes to cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives, I haven’t seen most of them for years, decades in some cases. This is not a bad thing, it’s just the way our family is. I’ve got one set of cousins on my Mom’s side somewhere in Texas and New Mexico. I don’t think I’ve seen them in over 25 years. On my Dad’s side of the family I’ve not seen any of my cousins since his funeral, and that was 14 years ago. Last I heard one cousin was in Georgia, one was in Arkansas, one was in South Dakota and one was in Wisconsin? Michigan? Somewhere in the frozen north.

I’m thinking about my cousins tonight, because I’m fairly sure I’ll be seeing the one’s on my Mom’s side of the family fairly soon. You see, my Grandmother, Granny B (Her full name is Mable Butterfield), is ……Gods, I don’t want to say she is dying. She has been in a nursing home for about the last twelve years, and her dementia (I guess that’s a nicer word than senility) has been such that she’s thought she’s in the mid 1950’s for the last six or seven years. Sunday night she was admitted to a hospital. Mom told me the name of the condition, some kind of hernia that is causing internal bleeding. The doctor’s seem to think that she will respond to medication. If she doesn’t respond to medication, they, the doctors, are not advocating surgical treatment. They feel that due to her age (she’s 94) and general condition that she would not survive surgery. So, if she doesn’t respond to medication ….well if she doesn’t she won’t last much longer.

So, I think I’ll be very shortly going back to Nebraska for a funeral. The one thing that my cousins and I have in common, our grandmother, will draw us all back home to say good bye. Even if she stabilizes and comes out of this immediate situation, she will, in all likelihood, not survive the summer.

Granny B in many ways is a remarkable woman. She has lived all of her life in Holt County Nebraska, which if you look at a map you will see could easily be labeled as “the middle of nowhere”. She is a remarkably independent woman; when her own husband died in 1961, this woman that had never worked outside the family farm (and let me tell you being a farm wife in Nebraska is HARD work) refused any and all charity. She got a job at a bakery in O’Neil, the only large town (with a population of 1800 people) in the county, and for the next twenty years, until she retired , she was at work making donuts, fritters, and other bakery items.

After she retired from the bakery she kept a part time job for another twenty years in a combination hobby shop/hardware store/bait and tackle store. The kind of store that you can only find in very small rural communities. Until her eye site got so bad, and frankly, until the dementia took her away, she was a very crafty person. She knitted, tatted, sewed. She was always making something. When I was a kid, for years, every decoration on our Christmas tree, was something that Granny B had made. My sister and I still have some of those ornaments.

Granny B scrimped, and saved, and because of that she was able to travel a good bit of the country. She and her friend Hazel Lorenz would go on Senior Bus Tours: to the Black Hills, to the Wisconsin Dells, Los Vegas even. Hell, she even flew to Hawaii several times to visit family members that had retired there after leaving the Air Force.

Her health started seriously declining about 15 years ago, and twelve years ago she finally had to admit that she needed to be in a nursing home. She flatly refused to move in with any of her three daughters. Her dementia came on fast, and it has been probably the hardest on her. She is/was such a strong woman, and facing the fact that she couldn’t trust her own mind any more really scared her in her dwindling moments of clarity. She still recognizes my Mom and her Sisters, but she thinks they are all teenagers. For the last five years or so when I’ve called her she thinks I’m my uncle Leroy. In the last couple of years she has become more and more frail. Not sick, exactly, just old, and frail.

In a way we’ve all known this time was coming. We all knew that sooner or later we’d have to go back to O’Neil one last time. Still, it’s hard to believe. She always joked that she would outlive us all, and I half believed it. Now, on one hand I’m a fully grown adult. I should be able to handle the fact that she will soon be passing to what I truly believe will be a better place without a lot of difficulty. God knows she’s earned her rest. On the other hand, I’m still her grandson. I’m one of many grandchildren that loves that old woman dearly and has been loved by her all of our lives.

I really don’t care who, or what you pray to, but I ask that you pray for Granny B. She’s a great woman, a great person, and a great Grandmother.


One Response

  1. No matter how expected it is, it’s always the unthinkable.

    My paternal grandmother was 97 when she died peacefully in her sleep. And I was still shocked.

    I know she died in the best way possible – of old age, in her sleep, with little infirmity at the end. We mourn, not so much the death, but the hole in our own lives.

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