Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Grandma Diaries

My Grandmother is losing her mind. Quite literally. I'm angry. Angry at a disease that is stealing away, bit-by-bit, someone I love dearly. I'm sad. Sad that I can no longer sit with my Grandmother and look at pictures, ask questions, hear stories, get wise advice.

Her home is filled with a lifetime of things. Things that have special meaning. Grandma no longer lives among her tangible memories. They sit alone in her house. It is no longer a home ... it is now simply a house. The person who made it a home and brought meaning to the things in it can no longer do so.

The decision is made to sort through the things and sell the house. Grandma can not enjoy the things and the house needs to be "cashed in" to help with care and medical expenses.

The sorting is done. I found the process of going through Grandma's "life" disconcerting, to say the least. I felt like I was prying. I felt like I was saying goodbye to Grandma before she was gone. Here but not here.

I took some of my Grandmother's costume jewelry from the 40s and 50s. I will find occasions to wear this jewelry. I want it to "live" again. I also took a few items that my Father brought back from Japan in the 50s. Most intriguing are my Grandma's diaries from the 30s and 40s. Maybe these diaries will help me see Grandma more completely.

Grandma's diaries sit on my bookshelf. I'm curious to read them yet hesitant to pry.

I will read Grandma's diaries during the Christmas and New Year Holiday. They will be a last gift to me from my Grandmother.

12/26/2005 - 1/2/2006
I'm swept back to 1937, just two years after Grandma and Grandpa marry and one year after the birth of my Father. Grandma is a young woman just beginning her life as a wife and mother. Through the diaries I meet a charming and winsome young woman who is often baffled by the behavior of men (namely Grandpa), works hard to run a household during the Depression and WWII, spends a lot of time with her extended family, and ... goes to the movies OFTEN. I'm surprised to find Grandma going to the movie theater sometimes two and three times per week. I have never in my lifetime known her to go to the theater to see a movie nor have I heard her talk about movies. I keep a list of the movies she sees between 1937 and 1947; there are hundreds. Not only does she note the movies she watches, but she often comments on what she thinks about them. When I'm not reading Grandma's diaries, I rent and watch the movies Grandma saw when they were new. I have found out where my Grandmother gets many of her affectations and why she has always dressed in a rather glamorous Hollywood fashion.

Grandma's diaries have also become a personal connection to history. Grandma notes the day Hitler invades Poland -- she makes no other notations for that day. She writes about the family and friends that join the military ... the family and friends that never come home from the war. I detect an unspoken fear and intense loyalty as I read. Grandma tends to her Victory Garden and deals with rations. I am drawn close to an era I never saw. I cry as the radio announces the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I want to know what will become of the grief stricken wife and infant son of a friend named Walt who dies and is buried in France, Thanksgiving 1944.

There is so much more to this woman than what I've known during my lifetime. This is a woman at the end of her life who was once a girl, once a young woman, once my age. A woman with deep feelings and intense experiences. A woman with a different history but yet very much like myself. When I see her next I will look into her blue eyes and see so much more than I've ever seen before.


  1. Great post, Terri! I bet with some good editing, it would make a nice book, too, hmmm?

    I'd love to see the list of movies and I can't imagine a better picture so I'm really looking forward to seeing what other one you come up with!

  2. Terri - Mary directed me to your post. I appreciate how you describe all of your feelings and admiration toward your grandmother. As I read, it struck me how I have had many of the same thoughts and deep appreciation of my own grandmother.

    I liked the way you used dates and took the reader through a progression of your own process in reading her diaries and her life as well.

  3. Michelle - Glad you enjoyed the post. It was a difficult one to write.

  4. Your post touched me. I never knew my grandmother.

  5. Rose, Thank you for stopping in and reading. As you can tell, my Grandmother means a lot to me. I learned so much from her about how to live life with love and integrity. I had a good teacher. Now it is my turn to be the grandma.

  6. Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us. How wonderful that she left a written record of her early days.

  7. Very nice tribute to your grandmother, Terri.

    The same themes are in Clara Callen - watching lots of movies, the mentions of the beginnings of the war in Europe, confusion over men. You won't need to read it since you've read the real thing.