1. Never stop learning.
My gram was basically the human equivalent of Google or Youtube. If you needed to know how to do something, you could ask her. In her 80s she was taking digital photography courses and dominating Facebook. She could sew anything, and cook anything. She knew about teaching, and farming, and would spend evenings, mealtimes, and driving time quizzing my grandpa on his insurance information. Her thirst for knowledge was insatiable, and I love that about her.
2. Be creative.
Interior design. Ceramics. Cooking. Quilting. Sewing. Photography. These are just a few of the creative pursuits of my gram. She was always creating something beautiful, either for herself, or someone she loved.
3. Support those you love.
If you had a sporting event, gram knew about it and was there or would call you after to see how it went. If you were on the news, she was taping it. If you had a passion, she would research information to help you on your journey. She was so present in all of our endeavors. Just a few weeks ago my cousin was reviewing all the old VHS footage of my grandparents’ (mostly recorded soap operas and workout videos) to make sure it was ok to throw away. Sure enough, in the middle of one tape a fifth grade Kelsey pops onto the screen doing some stupid 20 second interview on the news about favorite class pets. She had who-knows-how-many of my blog posts printed out to read and re-read. If there was ever a night I had an especially depressing or cryptic post, she would apparently call my mom and start interrogating her about it, worrying about me. She was my most avid blog reader, and would always be sure to ask me questions about the things I wrote, or tell me how much she enjoyed it. She took an interest in our interests, and that meant the world to me.
4. Love deeply.
The relationship between my gram and my grandpa was so, so beautiful. I will never forget how every. single. night. my grandparents would get in bed, turn on “Married With Children” and then talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. I couldn’t believe that they could have so much to talk about! They spent all day, every day together, and yet every single night they would talk for hours. They held hands when they went anywhere. They missed the other terribly whenever they were apart. They were fiercely loyal to each other. Their love wasn’t about big, gushy, romantic feelings; it was about the day-in, day-out grind of life, and doing it together. They were an incredible example of true love.
5. Appreciate the little things.
Cute little trinkets are one of my gram’s specialties. She loved giving them, and she loved receiving them. Anytime I went to visit she would take me out to buy “something pretty;” this usually consisted of some rhinestone encrusted barrette, a new bracelet, or a ceramic figurine. Most would find these items extraneous, or unnecessary, but they are the things that can brighten a day, or make a space more personal. I always found her house so cozy and girly, filled with pink, and ruffles, and lace, and angels, and flowers. Oh, the flowers. Throughout spring and summer there would always be fresh flowers on the table from my gram’s beautiful garden – she grew the most beautiful peonies and they smelled so good. It’s crazy to think how something so small could change the whole atmosphere of a room.
6. Coffee and ice cream are magical.
As my gram’s disease progressed, many of her tastes – likes and dislikes – changed. Her love for coffee and ice cream, did not. They were the two constants in her life that always brought her joy, and made her light up like a little girl. In her own wise words, “The only thing better than ice cream is more ice cream!”
7. Be adventurous.
My gram loved to travel. Unfortunately for her, my grandpa did not. Of all the people I know, I think my gram was the most encouraging of my travels. I think she liked to live vicariously through me. There were many times she would tell me I was “doing it right”, or she was proud of me for “getting out in the world.” She would have me talk to her about my favorite places, and explain even the smallest details of what I loved most about them. She proudly told everyone she knew about my travels; anytime I met someone new while living on their farm, they would say, “Oh, you’re the one who lived in Spain, right?” She finally convinced my grandpa – him at the age of 90, and her at 85 – to come visit me in Barcelona. I loved that when asked her favorite thing about the trip she replied, “How everyone gives you two kisses when they meet you!” Adorable. It was a beautiful trip, and I know she enjoyed it so much.
For months now my gram hasn’t known my name, or who I am. However, the day before I left for Barcelona her nurse called my mom to tell her she was asking for me – by name. I went and sat with her, and hugged her, and kissed her, and loved on her. She was just so sweet. I think that she knew I was leaving and wanted to tell me goodbye.
Me making the decision to live in two places was not easy. I did not choose this because I thought it would just be something glamorous, or fun to do. I chose this because I had to. Because my heart and soul were physically hurting. It is hard not to be with my family in times like this, but I knew this was part of the bargain. I was lucky enough to know my gram for 32 years, and to have lived with her a few years ago. Though I wasn’t with her today, I did get to tell her goodbye, and will continue adventuring on, in her spirit.