My maternal grandmother passed away this past July 1st, at the age of 90. Life has been busy for everyone, and dreary January days in Cincinnati have finally allowed us some time to go through her things. The recent holidays have brought her to our minds even more than day-to-day life, perhaps, in that we always gathered as a family on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and often New Year’s Day. Grandma never turned down a delicious, home-cooked meal made with love.
The items that we took from her house the day after she passed (also my birthday) include photographs (some as old as the early 1900s, many from the 1970s and more recent), many small purses and wallets containing lots of shoppers’ and senior discount cards, jewelry (mostly costume), vintage linens and other odds and ends. All of this fit in three large plastic storage tubs.
A young grandma on the family farm in Corbin, Kentucky
Yesterday, my mom, aunt and I spent a few hours sorting through these items and laying them out in their respective categories. We will pick out items that we each like and/or have sentimental meaning for ourselves, as well as distribute items to other family members who live out of town.
Most of my time was spent sorting through dozens of photographs. Many of the faces I recognized; some I did not. In this process, I divided photographs up into piles for my cousins, particularly photos of them with grandma and grandpa. My own pile contained images from visiting my grandparents at their home in Seminole, Florida, a trip to Dollywood in Sevierville, Tennessee and other assorted family gatherings.
My Xavier graduation party, May 2008
Looking through these photos certainly brought back memories. For most of childhood, my grandparents had two homes, in Cincinnati and in Florida. They were in Cincinnati most of the year, and I saw them fairly often. Their home in Cincinnati has been in our family for several generations; my parents owned the house when I was born.
Many of my memories of my grandma were simple memories…visiting with her after church with my mom, taking her shopping at Kenwood, playing the card game War in her tiny kitchen while she fixed me grilled cheese. I also remembered when she and my grandpa had a small motorhome that they would drive between Cincinnati and Florida, and would park in our driveway of the house in which we lived until I was in 3rd grade. Whenever I see peach gummy candy, I think of sitting on the couch in the back of that motorhome, riding down Beechmont Avenue–which seemed like quite a memorable outing for some reason as a six-year-old.
My wedding shower with my aunt and grandma, August 2010
We are still in the process of sorting through grandma’s things, and hope to be able to send family members some small tokens by which to remember grandma very soon. Losing a loved one is never easy. I believe it’s most difficult in small moments, those that would seem inconsequential, but somehow seem to make the absence of that person even more stinging.
Feel free to share your experiences below. How do you honor and remember your passed loved ones?