Nanny Alice is my great-grandmother. As an adult, I realize how truly blessed I was to have been able to spend so much of my life with this woman. My parents had me at a young age... I like to say I was a high school graduation present. For me, it was completely normal to have 6 sets of grandparents (my mom's, dad's, and stepmom's parents), and five great-grandparents. As a child, I didn't know how rare it was to be able to take a picture with four generations of women in it, the youngest being 16 years old. I see now how special it was to know these people, as many of my friends didn't have that privilege with their own grandparents and great-grandparents.
Of all my great-grandparents, I was closest to my Nanny Alice. I'm sure that's in part due to her long life with us (my other great-grandparents all passed away before I graduated from high school).
Our closeness can also be attributed to the fact that she made it crystal clear that she wanted me to be a part of her life. This woman was so proud of every single one of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I could have glued my hand to my face and she would have proudly taken my arm and presented me to everyone she met, beaming and bragging that I was her great-granddaughter. Who couldn't love a woman who made you feel like you were the best thing to walk through her door in ages? And she made you feel like that every. single. time you visited her.
|With all of her great-grandchildren at her 90th birthday party|
She was a master of the guilt trip. Woman could really lay it on thick. And she knew it. It was infuriating... but it was also endearing. When I would call to chat, we would have a nice conversation and she would always end it with, "It was so nice talking to you, I wish we could do this more." When I would visit, "It's so good seeing you, I wish you could come visit more." Each time, it was like a little stab in the heart. And she knew it... she was crafty. But you couldn't hold it against her. She just wanted the people she loved the most to be with her always. And, honestly, when you're over 80, you can get away with it. I'm grateful she pulled that with me. It resulted in me really getting to know her as not just my great-grandmother, but as someone I really enjoyed spending time with. The one summer that I came home from college for the full 3 months, I visited her every week. I would pick her up, take her to run her weekly errands, and we would go out to eat. I treasure the time spent with her that summer, and I know she felt the same. She told me so every time we talked... and also told me she wished that could still happen. She was nothing if not consistent.
She loved butter. I don't mean she loved to put butter on everything. She did. But I'm referring to the fact that she loved butter. On its own. She ate sticks of butter. One of my favorite ever memories of my Nanny Alice is the Thanksgiving when she sat at the dinner table and single-handedly ate an entire stick of butter, with zero apology or shame. I was sitting across from her and she kept making these noises with her mouth (if you know me, you know I HATE mouth noises) and I turned to Bryan and quietly asked him through gritted teeth, "what the hell is she doing over there, she isn't even eating anything." To which he replied, "She sure is..." and he told me to watch. So I did. She didn't just nip chunks off the stick and stuff them into her mouth. No, she was very civilized. She took her butter knife and cut a small tab of butter. She then slid the butter onto her bread plate and lightly salted it. Finally, she used her fork to transfer the butter to her mouth and she enjoyed the hell out of it. Bryan and I sat there laughing quietly watching this whole process play on repeat until the entire stick was gone. She always said that when she had meals outside of the assisted living home she enjoyed her wine, rootbeer, and real butter and salt. I just didn't realize she enjoyed it to that extent. She was 90 at the time... when you're 90, no one is going to stop you from enjoying a stick of butter.
She had the grip of an eagle's talons. Those little arthritic hands could really leave a mark after a short walk to the restroom. Every painful arm grasp was worth it, because on those mini-trips across the house, the restaurant, or her bedroom she would take the opportunity to tell me how much she loved me. I like to think that her tight hold was as much to give her some stability as it was to just let me know that I'm loved, and needed.
She was a flirt. My Nanny Alice had a boyfriend. There she was, this 90-year old teenager all in love with her boyfriend. It was just adorable. I remember the one time Bryan and I were visiting and we were all in the sitting area. Nanny Alice asked us to rehash our Black Friday shopping expedition and in the middle of our story I see her start whacking her BF with her cane. Apparently he had nodded off. She was all in a huff about his bad manners and he sheepishly smiled and rejoined our conversation.
She wanted you to be friends with her friends. We couldn't get through a visit with her without her pulling everyone and anyone who passed by into her room. Or, if someone would call while I was there she would put me on the phone with them, "just to chat," whether I knew the person or not. I probably owe my ability to strike up conversations with perfect strangers to her... she consistently threw me into awkward situations and I had to learn how to be social and friendly and interesting, quick.
All of these things are just little pieces of who my Nanny Alice was. They are the things that stand out to me. They are the bits that make me smile when I think of her.