08 March, 2011

Grandma Jean

Grandma Jean lived in Oregon while I was growing up, so I did not get to see her as much as I did my other grandma. I can't remember for sure when we started writing letters to each other, but I used to write her frequently. We would talk about a lot of things - life, what I was going through. When I got my first boyfriend in 7th grade I sent her a picture... I never felt she was far away when I was growing up, our relationship was as deep as if she had been right next door.

After my grandma Marion passed away when I was 12, Jean became even more important. I watched Marion slowly deteriorate from Alzheimer's and wanted to glean everything I could from Jean, wanting to know her well, realizing we are not guaranteed forever with those we love.

I got to go to Oregon to see her a few times. By then they were older and living in an assisted community on the edge of a lake. My dad and I went and had breakfast with them and stayed for a bit. 

She was a cancer survivor. After my grandfather retired they moved from Washington State to Portland so she could get treatment. 

I don't know how to describe my grandfather. He was not an overly affectionate man. I think he was closed off and remote. I don't remember interacting with him much while I was there. He came off kinda of grouchy and a bit demanding. And Jean took care of him with humility and grace. 

I've come to realize there was a mentality with my grandmothers' generation that has been lost in the midst of the "women's revolution" and "advancement." Looking at the lives of my grandmothers I wonder if we haven't lost something in some women's striving to prove they are "equal." As a society, we've lost some of the feminine wonder, the grace and service God endowed women with. We've forgotten how to be good homemakers in our striving to prove we can earn the bacon. We deny our families, forget the mandate to actually be there to raise our children and fight for something I still cannot identify. 

To hear my dad talk about good times in his childhood is to hear him talk about his mother. He's told me stories about cookies at Christmas. Grandma Jean had a lot of traditions, she took great care to do the small things over and over so they became meaningful. She loved her children deeply. While my grandpa worked at the factory in town, Jean created a wonderful, loving household for her kids. And, the few times I was with her, she did the same for me. 

My grandmother passed away within a few years of her husband when I was in high school. Yet, even long-distance Grandma Jean deeply affected me. I cherish her letters now, wishing I could have gotten my letters to her back after her passing. It would be an incredible collection, perhaps the most accurate reflection of my pre-teen and teenage years. She was a rock for me in times of deep instability and insecurity. I wish she could see me now, and how her deep love and support fashioned and affected me. 

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© Amanda Lunday