My Grandma Ella turned 96 on the 21st- she and Zach share a birthday. When I introduced them in 1999, her lips stamped his forehead with "Grandma approved," and she decided she would share him with me, since she was just a "widdow widow." Back then, she was still living in her condo, still doing hair in her salon/laundry room.
That condo was close to the studio where I worked before I was married, and I would go there for lunch sometimes. Some days she would be in the salon with a customer, and I would make myself a sandwich and listen to the little shaky voices of the ladies getting their hair done, and my grandma's strong alto voice responding. For decades, everyone has agreed she seemed about ten years younger than she really was. She chalked it up to oatmeal every morning, working, and keeping busy. I chalked it up to her signature hairstyle that started out with just one little wisp of white in the front which over the years gradually overtook her hairline until there was just one thick wisp of dark brown. That, and the occasional swearword and straightfaced joke about getting sloshed at keggers.
A while after my Grandpa died, she confided that she wouldn't mind if he came to get her any time. I told her that wasn't acceptable- I wanted her around another ten years so my future children could meet her. She just rolled her eyes and told me not to wish another ten years on her.
Ten years later happened anyway. During our trip to Utah last month, we went to visit her a couple of times at the rest home she moved to. After already having come close to losing her in the few weeks previous, we knew this would be goodbye. I was really glad my girls would have one more chance to see her, and maybe even remember her. She didn't exactly resemble the woman I will remember in the years to come, but I really hope my girls keep a memory of being with her.
We sat in her room and talked with her as she passed a bowl of DumDum suckers. The kids took turns hugging her, hearing her tell them how much she loves them. Fascinated, Anya pointed and said "Your hair is white and brown." I smiled- maybe our memories won't be that different after all.
In Memory of Ella Klara Marie Larsen Gale
May 21, 1914- May 29, 2010
When I pulled up these pictures, Anya came over and said, "Grandma Ella! I like Grandma Ella! I get suckers! She have white and brown hair."