My Grandmother is 40

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Kentville, Canada

Or at least that is what she told me as a child and I repeated to others. And now I understand adults’ amused faces when they asked me to repeat the statement.

She also told me that rocks grew and I became worried that we would have problems when the pebbles overtook our backyard.

She told my younger sister that if she didn’t behave the woman down the road would come and get her.


Nanny was a character.


My father died when I was five and my mother moved home. When I was eight she bought a top/bottom duplex so my grandparents could move in below and look after us. We ate our weeknight dinners at her kitchen.

She was a terrible cook.

I grew up eating only a handful of things things: fish sticks, chicken dinner, chicken dinner leftovers, bland spaghetti, fish chowder.

And yet some of my favourite foods are her recipes, coconut cherry balls at Christmas, shrimp dip for special occasions, Duncan Hines marble cake with homemade icing for birthdays.


She lived through some tough times so making sure people had enough money was very important to her. Even when I made 5 times her meager retirement allowance she would stuff a $20 bill into my pocket so I could not refuse it.

When I moved away we would write each other a few times a month. We would never talk about anything serious other than the weather, what our dog was doing and that everyone was fine. She bought cards specifically for it and her envelopes were decorated with sparkley stickers.

She sent dish clothes that she had knitted. Even when I sold everything to travel I could not throw them out.

And when I returned home it was mandatory that my sister and I played cards with our grandparents. She had taught us Auction 45 and Cribbage as children and decades later we still had the same game play – she would whinge about how she had terrible cards and then laugh at the end when she spoiled your bid.

Every time she saw me she asked if I had lost weight. It was just her way of giving a compliment.

Up until her mid-eighties she was strong and healthy, like most of the women in her family I assumed she would live to 100. But then she started to deteriorate and it happened quickly.


She lost the sharp edge that she once had.


When I returned home after South America she had good days and bad. One particularly bad night she was talking nonsense and was in and out of sleeping on the couch. I was lamenting how she had changed and then she perked up and looked at me and asked if I had lost weight.


Even in the fog part of her remained.


A few days before I left for Europe she fell and cracked her pelvis. Before my flight I visited her in the hospital and while the nurses warned us she was on morphine and not with it, when I spoke to her she perked up and she knew I was there.

And while she had weakened over the years I thought she would just rebound and I would see her at Christmas.

But on my frantic way home from Europe I thought she passed and no one wanted to tell me. In the end I arrived at night and was able to see her.

The next morning, surrounded by family, she opened her eyes, sighed and was gone.


Join the Conversation

  1. Beautifully written. God bless.

  2. What a beautiful story. She sounds like a wonderful woman, and I’m so glad you have such great memories of her…
    Glad you made it home on time…

  3. Nanny would loved that you remembered her in that way.

  4. This was a great read…as a fellow grandchild I can vouch for all of these stories as 100% true…although I remember those cakes having quarters wrapped in wax paper, and those silver BB-like decorations on them that would break your teeth.

    You and Ryan did a great job with your eulogy at the funeral, she would have laughed…as she spoiled your bid.

  5. Gillian @OneGiantStep says:

    I’m sorry Ayngelina…and so glad that you managed to see her one last time. She must have been very proud of you for following your heart and I’m sure you will miss her guidance.

  6. Wow, so heart-wrenching, yet heartwarming at the same time. Glad you made it home in time.

  7. What a beautiful tribute! My thoughts are with you & your family.

  8. TheWorldOrBust says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I also just lost my Grandpa a couple months ago in much the same fashion. He was always a perky magnanimous guy who pretended to be a gruff curmudgeon old bastard (those who knew him never took him seriously).

    He was fine, and then all of a sudden started swirling into a downward spiral. Once week they’re lucid, the next they’re babbling, falling and unfortunately, on their way out.

    The one thing to understand is that they always loved you and want you to be happy. Thank god you know life is too short and something can always happen , and it looks like you’re doing a great job of living your life like there’s no tomorrow . So my deepest condolences, and keep on keepin’ on! 🙂

  9. Sorry for your loss, Ayngelina. This is a very moving tribute to her.

  10. Such beautiful words, it brought me to tears! My thoughts are with you and your family!

  11. nod 'n' smile says:

    This hurts me to read, but what an incredible tribute to her. I’m glad you were able to make it home in time before she passed. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  12. The Travel Chica says:

    You can tell how much she meant to you. It is great that you were able to make it back to be there for her and the rest of your family.

  13. What a beautiful way to remember your Nanny. Matt & I are thinking about you and your family.

  14. Emily in Chile says:

    I’m so glad you were able to get there in time to say goodbye. This is definitely one of the hardest parts of the travel/expat lifestyle, not being right there for emergencies. Sending you a hug from Chile.

  15. I am so glad you made it home. I know that had to be hard and so incredibly stressful. I often worry about being far away and something terrible happening. I loved reading about how everyone helped you get home.

    Your grandma sounds excellent, and you know I hate old people so that is saying something.

  16. I’m very sorry for you loss Ayngelina, and I’m very glad you managed to make it home in time to say goodbye. Take care.

  17. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’g glad you made it home in time to see your grandmother. This post is a great tribute to her.

  18. So sorry for your loss–but it’s wonderful that you have such nice memories of her and surely she is so proud of all that you’ve accomplished. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way–

  19. I’m sorry for your loss, Ayngelina. I had to go home about a month ago because my grandmother passed as well, which was (and is) super hard because her and I were really close. You’re so lucky you got to see her before she passed.

  20. My condolences. I’m glad you made it home in time to see her. It sounds like she was waiting for you.

  21. dtravelsround says:

    Oh, Ayngelina, what a beautiful post. I remember when this was going on. I am so glad you were able to make it home to see her one last time. Reading this took me back to when I lost my grandma. It is never easy. I am glad she lived a beautiful live and had people who loved her around her. <3

  22. Ayngelina~
    my heart to You, so kind to share this story.

  23. An excellent piece to honour your Granny. She’s certainly proud of you from up there.

  24. It’s so wonderful that she waited for you! So sorry for your loss.

  25. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s nice that you got to see her for a brief moment before she moved on.

  26. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you. My beloved grandparents are both starting to show their real age and it’s killing me to see them “falling apart.” I try to treasure each moment I have with them now. Your grandmother sounded like an amazing woman!!!

  27. What a wonderful tribute to your grandma. She sounds like a really special person and I am glad you made it home in time to say goodbye.

  28. So sorry to hear about your grandma, what a wonderful tribute to her and how much she meant to you.

  29. Lorna - the roamantics says:

    i’m so sorry ayngelina. what a beautiful tribute to your grandma. when i downsized to a locker, i couldn’t part with my grandma’s things either, and i didn’t even grow up with her close by as you did. grandmas can be such great figures in our lives. sounds like you two had such a wonderful relationship. sending you *hugs*

  30. Tears in my eyes. Had a similar relationship with my Nanny, although she passed many years ago. Sorry for your loss, Ayngelina. Seems like she had a well-lived and loved life, and I’m sure she passed away knowing it.

  31. Grandmothers are special. I feel for your loss and thanks for sharing your memories.

  32. I’m sorry for your loss. My deepest condolences.

  33. Sorry to hear about your loss Ayngelina. Big hugs.

  34. I am sorry for your loss, Ayngelina. What a lovely way to remember your grandmother. She sounds like a wonderful person. Take care.

  35. Matthew Karsten says:

    Glad you were able to see her one last time. 🙂

  36. What a beautifull post. i’m sorry for your loss

  37. Chris Haughey says:

    Touching, heartfelt post. Can tell your granny meant a lot to you. Sorry for your loss Ayngelina, I’m sure she’ll be watching over you as you travel.

  38. So sorry for your loss: your grandma seemed so special! At least you got to say good-bye. I lost my uncle to heart disease while I was off in France last April. Your post made me relive so many emotions. Thank you for sharing!

  39. Sorry for your loss. A beautiful tribute.

  40. Beautiful post, Ayngelina.

    Sorry for your loss.

  41. I’m sorry, Ayngelina. This was a wonderful way to remember her character. Many of the things you describe about her remind me of my grandmother. She is 89, and even though she is so old, it seems like she will always be fine. I will visit her tomorrow and share this beautiful tribute with her.

  42. Such a beautiful tribute, Ayngelina, and I’m really sorry to hear of your loss. I know how hard it is and my thoughts are with you and your family.

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