Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I was living in Memphis Tennessee.  I had lived there for just a few months and was starting to realize I didn’t like it.  I was lonely a lot and was not ready to be so far away from absolutely everyone whom I loved.  The shiny new adventure had worn into something not nearly as good.

The day I went to see my Grandma Harter before I moved, she was on a lot of pain medication.  She was losing weight rapidly and was just a kindly shadow of the strong, elegant person I had known.  I told her I was moving away, how much I loved her, and how much I would miss her.  We talked about art a little bit and life a little bit.  As I left her room, she sat smiling and waving goodbye with one delicate little hand, fingers closed and dainty like always.  I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her.

Fast forward a few months to my apartment in Memphis on a drizzly work day.  My dad called, too early in the morning for a social call.  He awakened me to say not to worry but that Grandma Harter died, everything was going to be OK, and that he’d already bought me a plane ticket home.  We chatted briefly and then I called my work.  They were indifferent and told me to return soon and to be sure to bring a copy of the death certificate to prove my absence (nice, huh?).

I flew home and went through the motions of the funeral.  I had brought some of her artwork with me to decorate the viewing room- I wanted people to see her life more than her death.  Some of her close friends hadn’t even known of her amazing talent.  But that was her: elegant but unassuming.  She was the kind of lady to wear a hat and gloves to the store and still root for the Steelers on Sunday afternoon.  She found a way to be completely proper while putting others at ease.  I inherited a fraction of her talent and grace and I try to cultivate it.  I had four wonderful grandparents, but she was the one I had the good fortune to really know well before she died.

She did not have a college degree, but she was learned on a multitude of topics, especially politics and the World Wars.  The Depression prevented her from being able to attend the art college where she had a full scholarship.  She didn’t let her lack of formal education stop her from learning or from living.

Ten years ago today, Grandma Harter died.  But she still influences me and I am still learning from her.

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