Given that this is the season to honor and remember loved ones who have passed from this world, I thought I would make today’s blog post a more personal one and talk about a beloved relative, my paternal grandmother.

I forget my exact age, by Grandma Harris passed away when I was very young, before I began school, if memory serves.  The past several years of her life, she battled cancer.  I vaguely remember many nights where my sister and I would sit in the hospital waiting room with one of my parents while the other one would go upstairs to visit Grandma during her latest hospitalization.  I cannot think of Grandma without thinking of memories of her failing health because I never knew her before her battle began.

I am told that Grandma was a caring and strong woman all of her life.  I’m inclined to believe that because of the strength, grace, and dignity with which she faced her fading health in her final years.  Anyone can be strong and loving in the best of times.  However, it takes a special person — like Grandma Harris — to be strong in sir darkest hours.

One of my most cherished memories is of a day I spent alone with my grandparents.  Grandma Harris gave me a peanut butter cookie1 and I laid on one of the couches in my grandparents’ single-wide trailer munching on it.  Now, like any preschooler, I was a messy eater.  And peanut butter cookies are prone to leaving lots of crumbs.  By the time I was done, both I and the couch were covered in crumbs.  My grandparents saw it.

Grandpa Harris — who had a much harder edge than his wife — started to get upset and critical.  But Grandma Harris calmed him and told him that these things happens.  Besides, Grandma Harris had a solution.  She told Grandpa to go get the old vacuum cleaner.  He did and Grandmother began to vacuum up all the crumbs, both those on the couch and those on me.  Grandma Harris was a rather practical woman.2

When I think about the kind of person I want to be, I often think of Grandma Harris.  If I manage to embody half the love, strength, and no-nonsense approach to living that she did, I think I’ll have done a great job.  And I’d like to think she’d be pleased with the man that little boy grew up to be.

[1] Grandma Harris loved making peanut butter cookies, and they are forever intwined with memories of her in my mind.  If you asked me for an honest evaluation of which cookies I thought tasted the best, I would likely say chocolate chip cookies.  But if you ask me what my favorite cookie is, I will still tell you “peanut butter” cookies more than three decades later.  It’s not about how they taste, it’s about the fact that they are the cookies Grandma Harris used to make.

[2]  Plus it gave me countless opportunities to watch people’s reactions whenever I mention in passing that I got hovered by my own grandmother.

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