“She’ll sit on you!” my mother said as I tried to play when I should have been quiet.
“Huh? Why will she sit on me?” i asked, confused.
“Because that’s what Gi-gi does. She’ll sit on you if you’re bad!” she said ever so seriously.
Gi-gi, my great-grandmother was out in Colorado to visit along with Bud, my great-grandad. I remember being very young, and unsure about Gi-gi. I was worried that she’d end up sitting on me if I wasn’t behaving properly. But it didn’t take me long to find out that Gi-gi was one of the coolest people ever. She and Bud told me all about West Virginia, and how nice it was back there. She’d take me for a walk and read me books, and tell me stories. She’d set me something to do while she prepared lunch, and would make an incredibly tasty salad.
“Now, go warsh your hands!” She’d say, not letting us sit down until we worked out what warshing meant.
As I grew up, I spent bits and pieces of time with Bud and Gi-gi. A couple times, we drove the 1,500 miles to West Virginia to visit them. Things grew in West Virginia, everything was green and hilly. I remember it being stunning and experiencing rain that we could play in—Colorado’s skies only rain violently and would certainly fry you with lightning if you don’t run for cover, we believed.
I learned all about their story, and Gi-gi was incredibly good at stories. I wondered why everyone called her Gi-gi, from her neighbours and family to her postman. She was quick-witted and fun, and managed to be humorous when I was a 7-year old, and still as funny when I was 13, and just as fast and funny when I visited the summer I was 25.
It was sad when we saw her for our second trip to West Virginia back in the late 90s, because she’d lost Bud to dementia. But it was nice to be moving her out to Colorado so she could spend time with us. I luckily spent my teenage years with my great-grandmother close by. I was always impressed with her wit. She’d double-majored in university back in the late 30’s, and ended up working as a chemist. She was keen on sports, too, following baseball and cheering the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Her move out to our home state was a powerful blessing. Instead of short visits with years between, I could see my Gi-gi weekly. I could enjoy the “everything” salad with dinner and funny, clever stories whenever I liked. We could play a continuous game of “Spite and Malace,” which was supposed to last 500 hands. We lost count. She was winning, I’m sure.
Unfortunately, the blessing was harder for Gi-gi. She loved spending time with us, but was no longer a pillar of the town she’d spent so many decades propping up. She wasn’t familiar with the Colorado desert, and tended to stay at home at her and her daughter’s house. She devoured books, and worked her way through hundreds of spy novels and stories. She also cooked and warshed and had always kept an incredibly tidy house. So she filled her days, but seemed to be getting tired. Her husband had gone long before her, and the remaining time was partly bittersweet.
It has taken me a long time to post this, and I feel sad that it has. It’s been about a year since Gi-gi’s time in Colorado also came to an end. This time, she won’t be coming back to visit. Before she left, she got to meet her great, great granddaughters, which is an impressive thing to consider. I am still stunned that she is no longer there to learn from, and I miss the opportunity to hear more of her long life’s stories. I’ll never hear her cheers as a Pittsburg Pirate scores a run, nor her exclamation: “oh Shoot!” as she discards the wrong one—though I cannot deny my elation at what must be a rare opportunity to score. I remember her spite and malice, and her understanding. I cherish her wit, and miss her a lot. But I am happy that her bittersweet time away from her husband has finished, and wish everyone who met her peace knowing that she was incredible.