Sunday, May 29, 2011

This one's for you, Toots

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to introduce you to a very special lady.

This is my grandma Nancy, or Toots, as I affectionately called her. She was my real dad's mom. It's difficult to put into words how much my grandma meant to me. She passed away last November after a short battle with liver cancer. It happened so fast that I'm still grappling with the reality that she's gone. I like to pretend that she's still in Boise doing her thing. Taking care of everyone around her, reading books in rapid fire succession, serving on church committees, and watching her soaps.

I spent a lot of time with Toots as a child. We lived in Boise, and she watched me after school and all summer long while my mom was working. I have fond memories of playing beauty parlor with her while watching the Golden Girls. We'd bring her make-up tray into the den and take turns applying garish red lipstick on each other and teasing our hair like Blanche's.

When I visited her last fall, we played beauty parlor again. Except this time I was using dry-shampoo to wash her hair and helping her brush her teeth in bed because she couldn't get up anymore. She used to change my diapers and now I was returning the favor. Even in the midst of very awkward and unchartered territory for all of us, she was making jokes. You couldn't beat her sense of humor and outlook on life. She was once told me that "this too shall pass" after I shared a difficult time I was having. Those wise words still get me through the low points.

Right after high school my aunt Melinda, cousin Alison, grandma, and I went to New York for a week. My grandparents are originally from New York and raised their children there until Auntie M was a senior in high school before relocating the family to Boise, Idaho. We stayed on Staten Island and toured their old haunts. The photo above was taken in front of the home they owned there. We ventured into Manhattan and must have walked 60 blocks that day. Even in her 60s and with multiple knee surgeries, grandma was a trouper. It was a wonderful trip and I'm so grateful that we went.

Grandma was caring and thoughtful but sharp as a tack and didn't mince words. She once told my 20-year old mother that her ass was getting wide as they were making the bed. Another time she sneaked up behind my grandpa as he sat in his chair waiting for dinner to be ready and whacked him in the back of the head with a frying pan. Then she ran like hell and locked herself in their bedroom. Evidently, he wasn't saying very nice things and she got fed up. My family history is full of stories like this and much worse. Auntie M and I have long talked about writing a book and revealing all the craziness.

In the midst of that craziness, I convinced grandma to escape to Warm Lake with my family (step-dad, mom, siblings, and pets) for a week. From the outside it may seem weird that my mother's ex-mother-in-law came on vacation with her "new" husband and their kids, but it was perfectly normal to us. I loved that I was able to give grandma a week away from the stress and hardship of home. We had such a great time reading books in the cabin, reading books by the lake, taking walks, playing poker, and talking talking talking.

Toots taught me to take care of the ones you love, to not let anyone take advantage of you, and to love Frank Sinatra. I learned to Waltz while watching Toots and Pops dance to this song. I remember that even then I recognized how much these two individuals meant to me and how I would cherish the memory of watching them dance in the living room.

Please enjoy this song and then go call your loved ones. You never know which phone call will be the last.

Like Frank says, "Someday when I'm feeling low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you." 

Nancy Granquist Scharf
March 30, 1930 - November 22, 2010

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