Track 9: This one is for my Grandmother, Jeanne. She was literally everything I could have hoped to be. Never uttered an unkind word about anyone. Had faith that moved mountains. Had an unending love for my grandfather. Had a fierce love for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Loved God in a quiet but certain way. Stood her ground when she needed to. She always joked that she was never the grandma that baked cookies or anything. But she always had coffee. That might actually be my first memory of being at her house. All of us gathered around her very small kitchen table, but somehow we always had room, with an endless supply of coffee. We are of Danish descent, and I was always assured that was the reason for the goodies always present with the coffee. My first cup of coffee was offered when I was little. Maybe not even in school yet. But it was always mixed by my aunt who gave me more milk and sugar than coffee, but nevertheless, there it was. As I got older, the coffee formula changed until I was drinking the same as my mom and my aunt--extra cream and just a tiiiiny bit of sugar. (Mostly because Grandma liked her coffee dark, and sort of thick, or well...strong). She knew the minute I was pregnant because I couldn't stand even the smell of coffee and never uttered a word until I felt far enough along to tell everyone we were expecting Jenna. It was only my first pregnancy that I couldn't stand the smell of it, but I went without it for both pregnancies, and she always very kindly offered me tea instead.
After my Grandfather died, (I'll tell you stories about him sometime soon, I promise,) my Grandmother didn't spend one night alone for the eleven years she lived past him. We all took turns staying with her, and those nights are some of my fondest memories. It was my great pleasure to wake just before her and put the coffee on so that the house filled with that familiar fragrance the beckoned the start of our day. Our conversations over that coffee are some of my most treasured memories. It was then I learned of her adventures with her friends taking 40 mile bike rides and train rides, and renting a cottage on Keuka Lake with her girlfriends before she was married. She was an adventuresome girl who had lived through the death of two siblings (one very young, and one almost 18 years of age) and could still smile and laugh. She outlived her parents, whom I never met, but always spoke so highly of. (They both came over to America from Denmark and my great-grandfather even survived a shipwreck on the way!). I like to think I get a bit of my nomadic personality from them. My grandmother literally had to walk up hill to school both ways because of where she lived, I know, we always just thought it was a joke, but alas, for her, it really happened. There is a road in our town named after her family's farm, and that is where her family was shielded from many of the effects of the Depression...often taking in and feeding those with far less than what they had. She never had much, but she was always willing to share.
Life was not easy for her. She had polio, and was in quarantine for an entire summer, away from her two very young children at the time. She went on to have four more kids after learning how to walk again, though polio took a great deal from her. She never drove. She was always quite dependent on my grandfather for pretty much everything. He loved her well, and in turn, she loved him. His last words to me were, "Take care of Momma." She was literally the last thing on his mind before he left this earth. And he was hers. As the end neared for her, I recall her talking about him, even if in her sleep. She often dreamt about him. That love was no small miracle. But year after year, nearly 57 if I recall, years of choosing to take care of each other. She worked hard with both her hands and her heart.
This song is so much more than just that. Its my best attempt to date of trying to convey the immense gratitude and love that I had, and still have, for this woman whom I was privileged enough to call Grandma. I saved every note she every wrote me because her writing was impeccable. She used to design advertisements for the local paper as a job. Every beautiful font and design was hand drawn. This impeccable eye for fashion and detail. She always looked stunning, without being overdone. I believe my mom called her a fashion plate. I really can't say enough about her. But at the end of the day, when I think about what to say, I say this, "She loved me. And I, her."
"...She was tied like the strings on her favorite guitar, worn and frayed, as she played the sweetest of songs, Tried and true, overdue to come home...Oh the dirt on her feet, and the dust of the road. The dirt on her feet, and the dust of the road..."