Today, (actually by the time I get this posted it will have been yesterday) we laid my tiny grandmother to rest. She lived a very long (99 years) and sometimes difficult life. All of us grandkids knew her as "Grandma Birdie". At 4'9" (actually 4'8 and 3/4", but we didn't argue) she was a teeny, tiny, force of nature. My granddad called her "petit oiseau" (little bird) when he didn't think anyone was listening and sang "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" in French just to make her blush.
Our biggest goal as a kid..."Be taller than Grandma." For some of us...we never thought that day would come. The tradition of standing next to Grandma Birdie to see if you were taller than her became generational as her great grandchildren started to do the same. That is until my youngest got down on his knees to give Grandma Birdie a hug and he was still taller than her. She called him a "smartass". We all burst out laughing "Grandma! You said a naughty word!" It was the first time they heard Grandma Birdie swear!
She taught herself how to play the piano. Sundays meant sitting in the family room after church, singing while Grandma played the piano and Granddad played the banjo or guitar. The birds would flock to the giant willow trees behind the farm house and sing along with them, solidifying her nickname forever.
My grandparents loved to dance. They floated across the dance floor. My granddad's graceful steps and my grandmother's complete trust in where he was leading her was mesmerizing.
Life on the farm was hard work and we learned it well. My grandparents had a huge, HUGE garden. They taught me to grow and preserve my own food. It's the one thing I miss, living in town. I'm restricted by limited space. They raised chickens, rabbits, goats, cows, and Trinket the horse. Animals were to be respected and well taken care of. If you couldn't do that, you could expect my granddad's foot on your backside.
After my biological mom was diagnosed with cancer, we spent a lot of time at the hospital. Back in the 70s and early 80s remission was rare. My mom was told to get her affairs in order as she had 6 months at most to live. Her 7 year 7 month battle to prove the doctors wrong and my grandparents worse nightmare had begun. My brother, sister and I were constantly being shuffled between our house, the farm, school, and the hospital. My grandmother taught me to embroider, crochet, and knit as we spent many hours sitting by my mother's bedside. My first scarf was 10 feet long. I gave it to my granddad who proudly wore it everyday for a month until my grandma, the ever thrifty and money conscience person said "we should shorten it and make 2 scarfs". We learned if someone takes that time to make you a gift, it should be treasured, as a person's time is always more valuable than money. I still have the quilts she made for our sons when they were born. These will be passed down to my grandchildren.
Don't get me wrong, my grandmother had her flaws. She could hold a grudge...for DECADES. She didn't talk to one of her sisters for over 50 years. To this day, I'm not sure what happened, to be honest after 50 years, I don't think they remembered the reason either.
She changed after my mother passed on. The saying "no parent should ever have to bury their child" became her mantra. She never was able to let go of her grief. She became stuck, forever living in the past, while everyone moved forward. At times, in her grief, she could be cruel to those who loved her the most.
She could be a bully, especially if it meant getting her own way. She had no problem voicing her opinion even if you didn't ask for it. As she advanced in age, her "brain-to-mouth" filter stopped working altogether and we were never sure what was going to pop out. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was shocking. Sometimes...both.
Through it all, the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly; she was and will always be "Grandma Birdie".
Voler, petit oiseau, voler
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