Back to My Grandma

My Grandma Cathy in 1914, when she was 8 years old

My Grandma Cathy in 1914, when she was 8 years old

I want to go back to talking about powerful women in my life who lived how they saw fit, without running for political office, and so naturally, I can only go back to talking about my Grandma Cathy. Did I tell you that we were roommates? I lived in her upstairs studio above her house (technically called Boppy and Grandma’s House), that she had built to be her art studio, before her bad back precluded her from walking up steep stairs again.

I was a 24-year old brat, fresh from the ex-pat scene in Prague for a year, so it should come as no surprise that I knew just about everything about life, particularly bad poetry (having written a few lines myself), and that I would have a lot to teach my Grandma.

She didn’t want to move into a rest home, which was her other plan, so this arrangement worked out very nicely, except that as it turns out, as I would learn over and over again for the next year and a half, I knew absolutely nothing at all.

She died in her sleep, which was what she wanted, but it was too soon for the rest of us. Her other preference would have been to die laughing, she told me once. I didn’t like either option, but this one was worse. It meant that from then on, her laugh, which came from deep in her belly, with cackles and snorts, would send me into a temporary state of panic. Was this the big one?

My Grandma could see the humor in everything, except for the one time at dinner way back, when my mom said she was voting for Reagan. I like to call this the Dark Moment, which concluded with ten minutes of painful silence, staring at our plates, until Boppy quietly walked back to the television and turned the Reagan/Mondale debates back on, the first and last time we watched tv during dinner.

Watertown, MN

Watertown, MN, a heck of a long time ago

Television can destroy families. I stand firm in this conviction.

But other than that, we laughed a whole lot.

It turns out my cousin Nell and I snort when we laugh, like our Grandma. I want to believe it’s genetic, but I think it’s a way to keep her alive.

So let’s go back and visit her in the days before she ever even knew who any of us were. Here she is ice skating one winter in Watertown, Minnesota. I earlier had said Minneapolis, but I meant Watertown.

Well, first, can you guess which one is her? I will give you a hint: I inhereted her very weak, flimsy ankles.

The Skating Rink, Catherine Gibson, 1987

The Skating Rink, Catherine Gibson, 1987

I like seeing her there with her hands on her hips, overseeing the entire operation, a skillset which she would only hone over the course of her life.


About katiekelly

I grew up in a parking lot.
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