On Saturday, November 14th, one day following her ninety-third birthday, my Grandma finally let go of her ailing body, her fragmented mind, and her long full life as Josephine Scherer. She’s at peace now and free of suffering. I wasn’t particularly close to my grandma, but I loved her and always had this little desire to be closer to her. I missed her memorial Mass in St. Louis which ended in a filled church singing a slightly remixed Frank Sinatra song, “She” did it “her” way. Laying in bed with Tulsi tonight, my mind was flooded by silent films and stills of distant, nearly forgotten moments I shared with her and stories I know of her life. I wanted to take time to remember her. To honor her life.
My Grandma is holding my Aunt Michele. My mom is standing on the picnic table at the very top in the back.
…her voice — i’ll never forget her voice. it was the same when she was old as it was when she was a young mother: click the arrow to listen to Grandma’s voice
…the featherbeds she made for sleepovers in her front living room and the peculiar and somewhat scary nun-doll that stared at us from the corner coffee table. It had thick, rubbery ankles and opened her eyes when upright, and closed her eyes only most of the way when lying down. My Aunt Georgia was a nun for a brief moment in time. I don’t think Aunt Georgia wanted the doll anymore, and looking back, I think Grandma thought the doll kept us kids in line thinking a nun was always watching us.
…she lived alone, and after a visit, when we’d drive away she’d stand on her front porch and wave until we turned left on Meremac Street and couldn’t see her anymore. i always wondered if she was lonely there all by herself
…her phone number on Gustine Avenue..664-7673…even though she hasn’t lived there in years and years
…that one summer day when I was staying with Grandma Kostecki (who lived just down two alley ways); i think i was ten years old. she sent me to Pevely Dairy store to buy a half gallon of neapolitan ice cream. although it was in the opposite direction, i first walked to Grandma Scherer’s house to share some with her. i still remember how that really surprised her.
…how i added her name to mine in 7th grade: jennifer suzanne josephine kostecki, not because i thought she’d appreciate it, but because i admired her strength and determination and wanted to remember that as i went thru life.
…how she filled her drawers and cabinets with restaurant-sized packets of ketchup, fruit jellies and mcdonald land cookies, just in case she had to live thru another Great Depression. (i attribute this observation to me learning how to skillfully live thru art school with little money.)
…my mom owned a steering wheel and stick shift leather wrapping business — a birthday gift from my father one year. the summer I turned 16, I worked in my mom’s factory alongside Grandma, 40 hours a week. she sewed the knobs, i worked out the wrinkles in the leather. we shared a building with a dry cleaning business, and some days it would be over a hundred degrees inside. Grandma was my mom’s best sewer and she never complained of the heat, ever. i worked hard that summer, not only for my mom, but because i knew Grandma was watching.
…how once, a handsome priest from South Africa charmed her with his beautiful accent and word of God. i think he softened her heart a little.
…after retiring from two jobs (a bank and a department store), she was the “hostess with the mostess” at McDonald’s where she gave young kids free kiddie ice cream cones after she taught them to shake her hand while looking her in the eye. she walked and rode the bus there every day until she retired in her mid-eighties
…the twinkle in her eyes and how she’d smile and look to the side and down when you told her how nice she looked
…how her long fingers moved like graceful spider legs crocheting countless, multicolored afghans blankets
…the enormous tin of sorted popcorns next to her ‘lazy-boy’ that grew stale throughout the year because she ate it so slowly
…how she pinched my cheeks when she kissed me, every time we visited, both at hello and goodbye
…how she always said what was on her mind
…the time she said a really hurtful thing to me (which i now can understand, since i am a mother. it didn’t have anything to do with me but her worries as a mother), and how i carried it with me for years
…how i always longed for her approval
…at her 80th birthday party (a huge ‘to do’ in the Ozarks–Grandma LOVED her birthdays) how she apologized for those hurtful words from so many years before
…how much sweeter she got
…the day i showed her my book, how my dad explained that her granddaughter was a published author and how she smiled
…her famous salsa she made with her award-winning, mammoth tomatoes and how when she couldn’t make it any longer, my mom did, and still does
…the way her hands began to shake eventually and her mind faded
…stories of how when her husband died, she had 11 children to raise by herself. she had to learn to drive and worked nearly every day from then until her mid eighties. she always claimed she hated kids and yet it was her dharma. she raised those 11 kids, and in many ways, helped raise her 29 grandkids who are now raising her 31 great grandkids.
…i learned just a few months ago from my mom that Grandma was a ballroom dancer and a BELLY DANCER! i’m still in shock. i’ve secretly always wanted to take belly dance lessons.
…the red tint in my brown hair that shows in the sunlight and how i got that red from her
…how my mom has her mother’s wit, frugality and beauty
…how i thought she’d live past a hundred
One of my midwives told me that we all have a special, physical tie to our maternal grandmothers because when they carried their daughters — our mothers — in their womb, they were also carrying us — the seeds that would become us — because baby girls are born with all their eggs already inside. I love that. Thanks, Grandma. For carrying me and for just being you. I’m thankful for knowing you and all you taught me and will continue to teach me. I love you.