this is a post I wish I didn't have to make. but I need to make it, to write these things down somewhere. I'm not strong enough to say them all out loud, not yet. but it needs to be said, and known, and remembered.
last wednesday, my Grandma Austin passed away. she was truly one of the most amazing women I've ever had the privilege to know. to be the Matriarch of the Austin clan is a tall order. but she did it and she did it well. I think she's the reason why we all turned out the way we did, why we are all so close.
Grandma had suffered from Alzheimer's through the last years of her life. she wasn't truly herself. but who I want to remember is the Grandma who would come with us on every family vacation she could because she loved to travel. the Grandma who would let me bake dozens of cookies just because I wanted to, even though there were already 100 in the freezer. the Grandma who... when I went through my "rebellious" teenage phase and decided to declare that I wanted to go to the University of Michigan, and the rest of the Austins said they would disown me (and my father said he wouldn't pay the tuition), Grandma stood by me and my choice and said she would pay for me to go to school wherever I wanted. I got over that stage quickly, but I knew she would have made good on her promise if I hadn't followed in the Austin tradition and gone to Michigan State. she loved life, and she loved to give. but what I remember most about Grandma was how much she loved all of us, unconditionally.
during the time our family was together, we did a lot of reminiscing about Grandma. I actually found out quite a few things I had never known, including the story of Grandma and Grandpa's early years. I think someone should write their story into a book or a movie, because it just seems so... perfect: Grandma's father worked at Dow Chemical with my Grandfather, in Bowling Green, Ohio. Shortly after they started "dating", my Grandfather was drafted and stationed on the east coast. They continued to see eachother, my Grandmother and her mother (because they needed a chaperon) traveled out to see him often. Eventually my Great-Grandmother became tired of all the traveling back and forth and she said "why don't you just marry him?". So during Grandpa's next 48hr leave he flew home to marry my Grandma. She, being only 16, went back to finish high school. He returned east and shortly after the wedding was shipped overseas and into battle. He and my Grandma worked out a code for him to use in his letters, so that she could know where he was stationed. Months passed and during the course of battle (I don't know which one) my Grandpa was shot through the stomach. He moved to a hospital in Eurpoe to recover, but was unable to communicate with Grandma. She knew he had been shot, but had no idea where he was or if he was even alive. One night, she was listening to a war show on the radio and they were interviewing "a wounded soldier". They would not disclose his name, but it was my Grandpa!
I've also realized how like my Grandma I am. She was the one who taught me how to bake. She had the patience for a child that wouldn't just place m&m's on the cookies in any order, each cookie had to have one of each color. And Grandpa had to eat the brown ones because they weren't pretty enough for the cookies. but then there were the chocolate chip cookies... Grandma always had them, either when she visited us or when we visited her. for years and years and years I tried to re-create her recipe. in fact, the night before we flew back home for the services, when I should have been packing, I baked chocolate chip cookies. it was a way of healing, and something I think Grandma would have wanted. I brought them home with me. according to the family, it seems like I've come pretty darn close to figuring her recipe out. I love baking, and I'm giving her full credit for instilling that in me. Something else I inherited from her, through my father, is a love for photography. Grandma always had a camera, and was always snapping pictures. My Dad has spent years collecting and cataloging all of her photos into albums. He said something when we were all together that really touched me: that he could see the compositional similarities between mine and Grandma's photos. looking through all the old albums of hers, I have to agree. and I feel so blessed that I'll always be able to carry these pieces of her with me.