May 31, 2016 my Grandma died. She was ready… In her nineties, living with dementia, alzheimer’s, heart failure. A pretty rough and scary exit. And she handled it with as much beauty as anyone could possibly do in her shoes.
She lived through some tough times. Serious tragedies and heavy losses. And even at the hardest of times she filled her life with love. She grew up on a farm outside Circle, Montana and rode a pony to and from school by herself every morning until her folks had to move into town. I wish I could remember that pony’s name. When she grew up she became a nurse and served as a caregiver for most of her life. She had three children, George, Margaret, and John. She outlived George. And her husband, Fred.
She didn’t get a drivers license until her kids were nearly grown. She would park her car outside of town and walk in to get her shopping done. She made the best cookies. She taught me to make them too. The white and blue ceramic container that lived on the credenza was always filled with ginger snaps (my favorite) or lemon iced molasses cookies (also a favorite). She didn’t mind us taking them when we thought she wasn’t looking. I loved watching her dance. Especially when grandpa would throw on a big band record and they would sway through the living room, giggling. After grandpa Fred died it was amazing watching her learn to be on her own after 60 plus years of marriage. Her personality blossomed. She kept busy with volunteer work at the hospital, playing bridge with her girlfriends and enjoying a pint of cold beer with a hot slice of pizza from the Cove in Polson.
She loved her roses. Grandpa’s roses. Flowers in general. Always wearing jewelry; earnings, necklaces, her watch, lipstick with a flattering top and some nice slacks. She loved to wear those sweatshirts that have paintings on the front. Loved them.
There was so much to know about her. To learn about her. Things that where either too painful to retell or her ability to recall was lost. By the time I became truly interested in her history it was already too late. I am sad about that. I’m sad I didn’t spend more time with her. That’s the hardest part about when someone dies. The moments that didn’t get to be.
When you’re making a movie you get the opportunity to “reset” the scene. Put all the props back to their starting position, go back to the bottom of the stairs, light a fresh cigarette, make that dramatic entrance, stage right, once – twice – three times… but we only get one go at this life. She was the last of my grandparents and the last direct connection to that era of family history. What I have left of her are beautiful memories, letters she’s written to me over the years, and this crazy desire to bake cookies for people on any variety of occasions or events.
Grandma, Millie Mielke – 1925-2016