My Grandma took her final step in leaving this world. All of us in the family have been saying that it’s such a mix of emotions. We are relieved that she is free from the Alzheimer’s nightmare, but we also feel the finality of losing mother and grandmother.
Grandma Bigbee, my dad’s mom, was bright, gracious, highly educated, and eternally patient. She was raised in India, England, and Scotland. She loved a good travel adventure because it meant learning and new experiences. She adored language, words, and as a career librarian she knew more words than anyone else I have met. Despite breadth of knowledge she never spoke down to anyone as if she knew more, but always assumed that her conversation partner was fully educated on their topic. And if that turned out not to be true she had the tact to allow them to feel as if they did.
My Grandma Liz did not talk about herself much; she didn’t just make you feel as if she was listening to you earnestly she really was listening to you. She was a wonderful friend, companion, and dinner guest because she was always polite, always gracious, and eternally positive and complimentary. Her upbringing taught her the art of conversation and social interaction that is all but extinct. I saw her truly lose patience only once. We were driving through Scotland to the home of a childhood schoolmate and the road map simply would not fold nicely. She folded and unfolded and refolded and tri-folded for about 20 minutes until finally she rumpled the map and threw it in the backseat without a word. I really could not hold in my laughter and thankfully she laughed with me.
There’s so much I could tell you that is interesting about her. Like her early years in India with her Aya and the crocodiles that wanted to eat her. The stories of going to a real life school for girls where she was a Prefect and Head Girl. About the bombs during World War II, about moving out of the city for safety, and about her father’s secret involvement in the war. We talked about composers, went to art galleries, saw the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, discussed literature, and she quoted poetry. One of her favorite books was “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling. She shared the MacFarlane Clan tartan with me, loved bagpipe music, and was fluent enough in French to always get her verb tenses right. She taught music, loved music, sang music, and listened to music her entire life. She appreciated impressionism, loved the renaissance era, but wasn’t keen on the abstract.
She was notoriously klutzy and not particularly athletic. When I was 11 we were riding bikes together, but Grandma was just riding in a circle. I asked her what she was doing and she distractedly replied, “I’m practicing turning left.” Once she mysteriously fell into a rosebush, and another time she tripped on an cobblestone and fractured her knee cap into 5 pieces thus ending their Italian Adventure. But what she may have lacked in physical ability she made up for with her brilliant mind.
We went for walks and went to dinner. Once, we went to sushi and she agreed to try a sake bomb with me. In the end she refused to chug the beer, because one does not “chug” in a restaurant, and simply sipped throughout the meal. I always asked a million questions about her life and she patiently answered everything. I was always interested in her romance with my grandpa. Who isn’t slightly confused by grandparents ever being young and falling in love? When they first met they played pin-pong in the church basement one night, completely lost track of time, and had to be kicked out. They rushed their wedding because of Grandpa’s deployment so her friend made her ivory wedding gown; her mother said she couldn’t wear white because her teeth, eyes, and hair were too yellow. Talking about my Grandpa was one of her favorite topics, and she always ended wistfully, “I do miss him.” It made me very sad for her, and also made me want a love like that of my own.
Grandma gave me blonde hair that lasts into adulthood. She gave me a passion for reading and learning and maps and shortbread. She gave us all love, friendship, kindness, and humor. She left us all with the legacy of what a great lady truly can be.