My paternal grandmother, Lois Rose Townsend Martin, passed away early this morning. I wrote the paragraphs below last night after learning that her time was coming to an end. xo
My grandmother is dying. Hospice is making her comfortable and she is surrounded by her son (my father) and her two daughters, one of whom was a hospice nurse herself. She had a heart attack this afternoon, and coupled with the recent trips to the hospital for heart problems and the pretty severe Alzheimer’s they say it’s only a matter of time. And yet, isn’t that what it is from the beginning? It’s always a matter of time.
My grandmother had four children and ten grandchildren—fifteen if you count step grandkids. I was right smack in the middle and a total momma’s girl, so we were never exceptionally close. But she lived nearby and so we spent a good deal of time with her and my Pop Pop. They had an old nickel slot machine that all of the grandkids would fight over and their freezer was always stocked with neapolitan ice cream that she would hand out in little porcelain bowls rimmed with green flowers. I remember loving the strawberry.
They would stop by after church on Sundays but they would never play cards because they didn’t think it was right to gamble on the Lord’s day. They were superstitious like that. They would always go out the same door they came in.
As my grandmother got older she became forgetful but was quick enough that it took us years to find out just how bad the Alzheimer’s had become. She understood her disease but pride kept it hidden with a good sense of humor that would only crack when she felt like someone was trying to discount her because of the disease. She was always witty, always living in the moment, always determined to stay a part of the conversation.
Eventually she moved in with my parents full time, and between visits back home I think I spent more one-on-one time with her in the past year then I did all of growing up. She would tell me about her childhood; her mother died when she was little and her father was an unreliable traveling salesman so at a very young age she was sent to live with a great aunt in Baltimore. She loved city life, and loved it even more because it was in the city that she met my grandfather, whom she always said was the most handsome man in town. “But he didn’t know it, and that was what made him so great,” she’d add with a wink.
They were married for 66 years—she was 19 when they wed and 85 when he passed away. Naturally, that track record made me curious for her advice when I was preparing to marry my husband. She thought about it, then told me that there wasn’t any secret, just be good to each other and have fun together, and not pick on the little things, which I have to say is about as good of marriage advice as I’ve ever received. She never remembered Scott during the more than six years we’ve been together, but nearly every time they saw each other she’d pull me aside and whisper “he’s a keeper.” Memory notwithstanding, I trusted that instinct.
Soon my grandmother will forever walk back out the door she came in. Though I will always miss her fire and sparkle, I find comfort in knowing that she is going to be greeted by the most handsome man in town, with whom she will play cards and eat ice cream and hold hands for as long as her heart desires.