Last week brought a bittersweet day for me. My Grandma Miller passed away.
She was the last of my grandparents and I guess I am at the age where it is more unusual to have a living grandparent than to not have one. But is hard when the last one passes on, no matter your age.
Grandma was 96 and had lived a good, long life. She was ready to go, and knowing that made her passing a bit easier. It is hard to mourn for one that you know is in a better place, especially since she would not have wanted us to be sad about her passing. Instead, we will celebrate who Grandma was and the legacy she left behind for all of us.
To truly appreciate Grandma Miller, you had to know her. And if you knew her, you knew what she was thinking. If you did not want to know what Grandma was thinking, you had better not be in earshot. She was a no-holds-barred fan of the unvarnished truth, and she delivered it whether you wanted to hear it or not. That was why I loved her so much.
She was a reader of my column and very quick to call me out on a piece that she did not like, especially if she thought I was being too silly. You know what? Most of the time she was right, and she was telling me what no one else would. She also worried about my health and if I was spreading myself too thin. Again, she was right on the money.
We all need that person in our lives, whether we like it or not. The funny thing is, I married a woman much like my grandmother. I guess that is why Jennifer and Grandma developed such a close relationship. Maybe that is why Grandma was OK with leaving us. I had someone who would keep me on the straight and narrow when she was gone.
Grandma was fiercely independent and enjoyed the simpler things in life. It did not take much to make her happy. A garden, good book and fresh air were all she really needed. A broken hip and a bad heart stole two of those pastimes from her, but she powered on despite the setbacks.
As a kid I looked forward to my one week a year that I would stay with Grandma and Grandpa on their farm south of Lawrence. I was Grandpa’s biggest fan. After all, he took me fishing and to the Royals games. But I also knew Grandma was the one who made all that good food and read to me each night I was there. Those weeks were and still are some of the best times I have ever had. I can still smell the cherry pie and hear Paul Harvey on the radio.
They sold the farm when I was in college and moved to Wamego to be closer to my sister, cousins and me. Grandpa passed away shortly after and it was tough on Grandma. She and Grandpa were inseparable. But again, Grandma held her head up and moved on.
She spent a lot of time out at our farm. She and my mother had a big garden, and most days you could see Grandma out tending that garden. She grew lots of things, but she had her own row of asparagus and we all knew not to touch Grandma’s row.
My mother passed away from cancer in 2005 and I truly believe that the one regret in Grandma Miller’s life was the one thing she could do nothing about, and that was Mom’s cancer. More than once she mentioned that no parent should ever outlive their child. And as she was most of the time, she was right.
I know Grandma missed my mother fiercely. They were very, very close. I remember as a kid it took forever to leave Grandma and Grandpa’s house because they would think of one more thing as we backed out of the driveway. Sometimes Dad or Grandpa would just have to drive off to end the never-ending conversation.
Grandma was known for walking everywhere she needed to in Wamego – the grocery store, library or the senior center. You could see her walking, even on the worst days. A broken hip took her walks from her, and she did not deal well with the loss of independence. Oreo cookies and large print books made it better. I am sure she gained some amusement by watching the people she lived with and the staff of the care facility, but it was not the same.
Yes, it was a shock when she passed, and I am sad. I am sad mainly for myself and my family. I know that is selfish because I know Grandma is much happier to be free of the physical confinements she so loathed. I am also comforted by the legacy she left for all of us who were in her clan. Many people have contributed to make me who I am, but none have had a bigger impact on me than Grandma Miller. For that I am eternally grateful.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.