As we pulled into the driveway my heartbeat quickened. Having dated her eldest grandson for only a few months, I was understandably nervous. This was Thanksgiving dinner 2001 and I was 50 steps away from meeting his entire family. Everyone was going to be there; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and his mom – almost all of whom were strangers at this point.
Time for my game face.
Grandpa opened the door, a gentle-giant of a man with a quick smile and kind eyes. Without waiting for Handsome to introduce us, he hugged me and welcomed us in. Good start, I thought. But then she came out of the kitchen, the scent of homemade goodness wafting after her—every inch the storybook Grandma in her cute apron, beautiful snow white hair, and large rimmed glasses. With a big smile she too embraced me, asked if I was hungry, and immediately scuttled me in to where she had an enormous appetizer buffet spread out.
“Love people, cook them good food.” It wasn’t actually her motto, she never had it hanging in her home, but it truly sums up the Grandma that I came to adore. Every meal in her home was over the top and made from scratch. She would rise early to start lunch prep before most people had showered for the day. Regular dinner never had less than four side dishes and celebration meals were so big they didn’t fit on the 10 foot dining table. After you had gorged yourself with three helpings of butter-laden casserole, biscuits straight from the oven, and the creamiest mashed potatoes this side of heaven and were laying bloated on the couch because you couldn’t possibly do anything else—without even giving you 20 minutes to properly digest—she would sneak over and whisper, “Can I dip you a bowl of ice cream? I have chocolate, strawberry or french vanilla and chocolate syrup or caramel sauce and I might even have sprinkles in the cupboard.”
And you’d feel terrible turning down this sweet lady in her turtleneck and appliqued sweatshirt, because this was how she loved.
After officially marrying into her family, she and I bonded over stories of life as a military wife. For years she raised three kids more or less alone, as Grandpa flew numerous tours over Vietnam. She never sounded bitter or resentful though, and I’d grin as she gave me tips on how to record the dinner conversations of my kids and send the cassette-tapes overseas. As her memory weakened she’d joke about the collection of post-its that were accumulating all over the house, each with a note written with perfect cursive penmanship. “Let me write that down” became her signature phrase when discussing almost anything over the phone.
In Greek, her name means “superior.” Fitting, I think, when it comes to her magical ability to grandmother. Technically, she is Handsome’s grandma, but for 12 years she was my grandma too and for that I am eternally grateful.
Recently the Lord called her home. Unable to attend her funeral, I sent Grandpa a charcoal portrait of her, hoping to convey the special mark she’s left on my heart. In my memory she will live on as the quintessential grandma, always feeding her flock with both good food and the most sincere love.
And someday when we are reunited, I won’t be a bit surprised to find her busy baking for God himself.