The memorial service for my maternal grandmother is today. She died a little more than a week ago, and she was my last grandparent. They are all gone now.

The loss hit me harder than I expected. It’s not just that I lost my grandmother. It’s that I’ve lost all my grandparents. An era has ended.

I can’t say I felt terribly close to my grandmother. She was my grandmother. I loved her, I respected her, and I did a lot of chores for her. Unload the dishwasher, organize the pantry, help put up wallpaper, bring in more firewood, feed the birds, weed the garden, water the plants, get the dogs water… The list goes on. Grandma – I also remember her being a bit cranky and fussing. Oh, my, yes – she fussed. I was always being told to brush the rats out of my hair, to hold still while she dug wax out of my ear, to… whatever. She couldn’t just ask. She had to fuss, fuss, fuss about it.

The negative, the things I didn’t like or found frustrating, are all too easy to recall. It’s much too easy to feel superior and think that I’m somehow better than her. After all, I can just ask. I don’t have to fuss. Snark, snark, snark.

But that’s really not fair. My grandmother, however cranky, fussy, and overly fond of the color green she may have been, still gave me a heritage worth remembering. Even those “negative” things have helped shape my perspective. Perhaps I didn’t feel a tight emotional bond with her, and maybe her presentation wasn’t always fantastic, but I did learn a lot from Grandma. Things in myself that I now value highly started with my experiences with her.

I learned that I don’t really care for the color green in all its many splendored shades. Green was Grandma’s favorite color. Her house was a riot of green. Grandma seemed to believe that if it was green, it must match, and so my eyes were assaulted by a painful confusion of lime, kelly, olive, hunter, spring, forest, and all shades of green. All green was good! This was not pleasant, but it was incredibly informative. It helped develop my eye for color and form, and that’s been useful as I’ve shot photos and created stained glass.

Grandma loved a bargain. She’d hit up thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Between her and Grandpa, they’d come home with the most incredible junk. I mean, really, junk. It was stuff that may have been worth recycling, but they were going to fix it up, and it would work just fine for ________. I can’t say I ever thought those were fun presents to receive, but I learned to see possibility, to make good use of scavenged materials. Not everything has to be new.

Coffee, particularly Black Butte Gold, is one of my favorite daily rituals. One of the reasons I drink coffee is because my grandmother did. She was always making a pot of coffee or looking for her (green) coffee mug which she’d set down somewhere. Sometimes she or Grandpa had flavored creamers to put in the coffee. Was their coffee good? My, oh, my, no – they were drinking canned, ground coffee, but I learned from them that a hot cup of coffee shared with friends and family can be a wonderful experience. I later learned, from other sources, what a good cup of coffee tastes like, but I wouldn’t have tried it if I hadn’t already learned from Grandma the habit of sharing coffee.

Long trips taken with my grandparents were well seasoned with comments from Grandma directing me to look out the window. Fuss, fuss, fuss she would until I turned my head and watched the countryside. I often preferred my current book, but she wasn’t happy until I was looking around me. It so annoyed me as a child, but it certainly helped develop my ability to observe. It also broadened my curiosity. The more I see, the more I wonder. I wouldn’t have that without Grandma.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from Grandma? It’s this recognition of seeds planted, of habit germinated, of gratitude for the beginning she helped to give me. It’s odd. In some ways, I’m the person I am because I didn’t want to be like her, and yet the truth is that I took what she offered and learned invaluable lessons.

Thanks, Grandma. I hope I always made you proud, and that you always knew I loved you.