Gram “R” Us

From hymns to Chips Ahoy

By Renee Whitmore

“I’m going to do some warsh. Do you need anything warshed?” Gram asked as she carried the laundry basket full of dirty clothes through the living room.

Even as an 8-year-old, I burst into giggles.

“You’re going to what?”

“Warsh clothes.”

“What is warsh?”

A familiar gleam highlighted her hazel eyes. “Oh, Naisy! You just like to laugh at your old Gram.”

One Sunday when I was a teenager, I was in church with Gram and Gramps. Standing beside her, I could hear her singing, adamantly and off key: “What can warsh away my sins?” I excused myself and went to the bathroom to get my face straightened up. The hilarity seemed to escape most of the faithful.

Gram always pronounced “wash” as if there was an R in it. And every single time, even though I knew it was coming, I would explode with laughter. She knew this, too. Saying “warsh” was just a part of her antics.

Gram, whose name was Audrey, was born in 1934. She was a child of the Depression and World War II and saved everything. I remember going through her fridge and pulling out ranch dressing, two years expired.

“Gram, this is old. I’m throwing it away.”

“It’s probably still good, honey.”

The intense mold spotting through the glass looked like an evil science experiment. “Bye, ranch.” I tossed it in the trash can.

You know what else Gram saved? Cookies. She loved cookies, especially chocolate chip ones, but any would do. As a kid, I would sneak them out of her kitchen drawers and, as an adult, it wasn’t unusual for me to find a dozen half-eaten cookies wrapped in paper towels hidden here and there in her bedroom.

Gram and Gramps (his name was Ray) had three kids. The oldest is my mom, and I’m the oldest of six grandchildren. Gram worked all her adult life as a nurse, and she was a good one. She spent her days taking care of patients and knew how to bark out orders like a drill sergeant.

Even as dementia darkened her mind, her wit shined. Once, when she was a patient in her own hospital, I found myself talking to one of the attending nurses on the phone.

“I asked her what her name is,” the nurse told me. “She said, ‘Puddin’ Tane ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.’ She never would tell me her name.”

Gram was an avid reader of this magazine. She always had the latest one, and my columns were bookmarked with Post-it Notes. She could never remember what I had written, but she knew it was her granddaughter behind the words. That made me smile.

In her final years, when dementia won the day, she would recite her favorite Scriptures and sing her favorite hymns. She spent her last days in hospice care, and I sang some of her favorites to her, even if I needed a quick YouTube tutorial first.

Gram passed away peacefully on August 9, 2020. When I was writing her obituary, I asked my Mom, uncle, siblings and cousins to describe her in one word. Here’s what I got:

Tenacious. Feisty. Punchy. Driven. Caring. Steadfast. Faithful. Strong.

After Gram passed away, we were going through her stuff, as family does, and in the bottom of her walker, we found a bunch of half-eaten cookies, carefully wrapped in napkins and tissues. The ants had found them, too.

If Gram had still been alive and I asked her why she had half-eaten cookies in the bottom of her walker she would have said, “I was saving them for later. You never know when you may need a cookie.”

And I would have said, “Gram, we need to warsh your walker.”  PS

When Renee isn’t teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she’s working on her first book.

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