Her name was Myrtle.
When Mrs. J and I started getting more serious (before she was Mrs. J, and was simply Miss T), we started doing the required rounds, visiting the relatives. This, of course, included grandparents. As I had lost my grandparents already, it was a pleasure to meet some new ones.
I was happily welcomed with open arms by each and every one of them. Myrtle was no exception.
Right from the get go she made me feel like a member of the family. Abiding by my silly ways and youthful impertinence with nods and smiles, giving me cookies and great chats.
In her demeanour and dress she was very traditional. Very prim and proper. She would always be done up when we would visit, things always in their place. Her clothing and surroundings were always constant. A comfort in an ever-changing world.
For all of the formality, though, there was also mischeviousness and fun.
She was outspoken. She was quick. A razor-sharp wit hidden beneath the pleasant, wrinkled exterior of a sweet old lady. Commentary on current events (sometimes in the room) could easily be missed if you weren’t paying attention.
It was one of my guilty pleasures to watch Grandma in action, revelling in the subtleties of her honest sense of humour.
As wonderfully funny as she could be, she could also make the sun shine like a beacon through the gloom of your bad days in ways that only a grandmother could.
The Best Way to a Man’s Heart…
Who could forget the warm, comforting feeling of biting into one of Grandma’s home-made butter tarts with raspberry filling. Arguably the greatest butter tart of them all.
She would always have a batch baked for us when we visited.
Sometimes the path to getting some was convuloted, as she would make us work for it by teasing us with the promise of their sweet goodness and then sighing and saying that maybe we didn’t really need them for some reason or another.
Pick It Up. I’m Going Alone
What goes better with home-made butter tarts than a rousing game of euchre?
When we visited them at the unit in which they lived, we would see a euchre standings chart in the lobby by the elevators. Grandma’s name was always near the top of the list (usually following Duncan, her husband and euchre partner).
Mrs. J would be Grandpa’s partner, and Grandma and I would usually deliver unholy punishment unto them.
Grandma was a top-notch card-player. She’d spend most of her time disguising her strategies by taking pot-shots at her opponents, intimidating them by tapping the cards on the table and telling them to hurry up.
Unfortunately, like all good things, Grandma was starting to fade, physically.
While her wit was still sharp and her outlook stoic, she began to show signs of deterioration.
She stopped baking tarts. Her card shuffles were starting to get a bit slower and clumsier. She was tired all the time.
But even with all that, she always managed a smile and a hug. She was always ready to show you her love in her own, quiet way.
My Favourite Memories
I like to remember people by the good they did. Everyone, good and bad, touches your life in a way that leaves positive impressions somewhere, if you care to look. Here are some of my favourite memories…
- How she would be Grandpa’s navigator in the car. When we’d reach a stop sign, he’d look left, and she’d look right. When it was safe to go (usually) they would proceed. They drove as a single unit.
- The smile on her face when Mrs. J tried her hand at knitting a sweater. Grandma was so proud that someone had taken up the challenge of what is still a mystery to me.
- Heard from Grandma during more than one game of euchre: It doesn’t matter what card you throw down, because it’s not going to do you any good…
- Before Mrs. J and I got married, I wasn’t sure what to call Grandma. She was introduced as Myrtle, but for all intents and purposes she was like a grandma to me. At our wedding, I looked at her and said, I suppose that I can finally call you grandma now, to which she replied, That would be just fine, dear. Just fine.
- During a birthday picnic in her honour (held on some land that they owned), she took us into the shed and secretly gave us a heaping helping of butter tarts that she had baked. Our very own horde that probably would not have survived the journey home if we weren’t so full from birthday foodstuffs.
- The time she looked me right in the eye and told me she loved me. That she loved both of us very much.
Grandma, you will be missed. You will always be in our hearts.
PS: Don’t think you’re out of the woods, as I’ll be counting on you for help when next I need a winning lone hand.