The nurse adjusted her pillow and said, “Your granddaughter’s here. Do you know Katie?”

She opened her eyes and looked at me. “Of course I do!” Faintly, but in her usual emphatic way.

The nurse nodded and left and we sat for a few seconds.

“You know that I love you.”

“I sure do, Grandma.”

“Good. I know the same thing, but about you.”


There are a lot of stories I could tell about my Grandma. She was a firecracker of a lady. I never, ever, questioned whether or not I stood in her good graces. I never once worried that I’d inadvertently offended her and didn’t know. I can not begin to say how reassuring that is. I look earnestly for that quality in my friends, and seek to create a safe space for that dynamic in all my important relationships.

As our family prepares to gather and remember a long life well lived, here I’ll share a couple of the moments with her that were most formative or memorable for me.

Godspeed, beautiful lady. I miss you.


During one of our visits to see her in Washington D.C., we had this conversation and it will probably remain my favorite memory of her.

“I appreciate that we have so many strong women in our family, you know?”

She raised her eyebrows. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, I have a pretty strong personality, I think.”

“Yes! You certainly do.”

“I think I get a lot of that from you.”

My grandma looked flabbergasted. “WHAT? What are you talking about?”

“Well, because you….um, well….because you have..a strong…personality?”

“THAT is not true. I do NOT have a strong personality. No one has EVER said that to me before.”

“Oh! OK, Grandma. Sorry. My mistake.”


My slightly younger cousin Jeff and I were small, and playing over at his house. He hit his head on something and there was a lot of blood, so we had to go to the hospital so he could get stitches. I, with that delicate sensitivity of soul which is not uncommon to the tender age of five or six, was more concerned that I had to stop playing with all their fun toys and go to a boring place. Jeff was, understandably, more concerned with the blood and pain coming from his face. As we prepared to go, I muttered (again with the sensitive), “OK, but do we have to listen to him scream?” (Jeff, if you read this; sorry about that! And I hope your head’s ok. I’m guessing it is, by now. You’ve seemed well each time I’ve seen you all these years since.)
My Grandma drew up to her full height, looked me square in the eye, and said, “KATIE. Be kind.”
Sometimes, when I realize I am being ungenerous in my interactions, I still hear the echo of that exhortation in my mind. I’ll try, Grandma. I love you.
Great Grandma Della

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