Tuesday, May 18, 2010

for lyn ~



In a way it was a 12-year goodbye. In 1983 I was getting ready to graduate high school, and no one expected a 17 year old to have a strong sense of what was happening.


Mabel & Clara

I saw it though. I probably felt it much more than anyone else. Grandma Mable was changing rapidly ~ it was the stress.  The stress of her older sister’s failing health.  The stress of clearing out her sister’s house and having the remnants of her sister’s life stored in her basement. 

Then on Good Friday her brother died unexpectedly. More stress. More behavior changes. More forgetfulness.

On Easter Sunday we went to the nursing home to visit her sister (my great aunt).  Sitting in the hallway in her wheelchair, we found her wearing someone else’s clothes. Her gaze was blank, and I wondered where she went. No one said anything. We went home for ham dinner.


Mabel, Clara, Ida, & Annie

The years continued to move quickly. Sisters died, brothers died. Still she lived alone in her house and talked each winter about waiting for spring and looked forward to working in her yard.  It had been years since she grew dahlias and mowed her lawn with an old fashioned push mower, but it was what she knew. It marked her changing seasons.

As the seasons changed, I slowly mourned the loss of grandma Mabel.  Year after year, she slipped away more.  She always knew me; although, she couldn’t remember my name.  My name, like the years, faded from her memory.

As her memory faded, mine became clearer.  I remembered Friday visits and peanut butter sandwiches with homemade apple jelly.  I remember Saturday afternoons learning to play her piano.  And I remember trimming her Christmas tree as she played the piano for us.

She would open one of her songbooks to the back where a discolored page was attached with yellowed cellophane tape.  She told us that it was a song they sang in the little church (the family church that was primarily Norwegian). She said that grandpa sang it in the choir.


”Den Himmelske Lovsang” (The Heavenly Worship)

When she passed during April 1995, it was a blessing. I had felt that I had mourned her passing during the 12 years prior.  The grandma I knew had been gone a long time.  I cherished the memory of my grandma as I continued to love the woman that had taken her place.


During the summer following her death, I was taking group piano lessons (with adults ~ I wasn’t in a room with 3rd graders). I had asked my teacher (Peg) if she would play a piece for me; a piece I hadn’t heard in years.  I soon came to class with a photocopy grandma’s song.


As Peg began to play, the breath left my lungs. I began to sob. It had been years since I heard the tune. I pictured grandma at the piano. Her hands at the keys.

Now 15 years have passed, and I am still standing behind Peg as she played grandma’s song.  I am still in grandma’s living room trimming her Christmas tree as she played for us.  And I am writing this for Lyn, so she knows that I know and many others know exactly how she is feeling. Take a deep breath, and it will be okay.


Grandma Mabel’s piano stored in my basement.


  1. Oh, Julie. What a very kind thing you have done. With big tears in my eyes I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. What a nice tribute. Thanks for your writing.