For Elizabeth

I flew down to Fresno yesterday morning and back again on the five thirty pm flight.  It was four hours sitting in airports, five hours sitting on planes, for four and a half hours at the hospital to sit next to my grandmother’s bed.

 I love my grandmother.  She’s 96 and she had a stroke last week that’s taken away her ability to speak or swallow, and use the muscles on her right side.   Did I mention that I love this grandma?  Dearly, dearly, dearly?

I called Surfer Ty once I’d landed in Fresno and was climbing into a rental car to tell him I’d arrived safely.  I told him I dreaded going to the hospital.  I don’t like hospitals.  They give me the creeps.  My dad spent a lot of time there and my former husband did, too.  I’m not very nice when people are sick.  I’m scared.  And not patient.  I don’t like being a nurse, don’t want to be a nurse, but I needed to see Grandma.   I needed her to know that I love her and worry about her and want her to recover.

At 96 there isn’t always a lot of talk about recovery, or rehabilitation.  People get old.  They die.

But not my grandma.  Not yet.  This grandma owns such serious real estate in my heart.  If you carved my heart up, sometimes I think she’d have at least half.  I know that sounds funny but she was one of those people that anchored me to the universe when I wasn’t sure I belonged here.  She made me feel important and loved my entire life even if she wasn’t the huggy, cozy kind of grandma.  No, Grandma Lyles is a rock.  My rock.

When I was a little girl I loved staying at my grandmother’s house because she had so many books.  Grandma worked–headed up a huge construction company and remained Chairwoman of the Board long past the age most men retire–and when she’d be at the office, Grandma’s housekeeper watched us.  Grandma’s housekeeper made me eat bologna sandwiches (I did not, and do not, like them) and take naps (I did not like them, either) but Grandma said I could take books with me into the bedroom and read them during naptime instead of sleeping.  I liked that.

When Grandma was home, she never made me bologna sandwiches.  She made me BLT’s and I loved those.  Especially with ketchup.  Grandma also always had marshmallows in her big glass jars, and at night, we always had a bowl of ice cream.  She’d have 4 or 5 cartons at one time in her freezer–chocolate chip, rocky road, fudge swirl, strawberry, vanilla–and we could have whatever flavor we wanted.  We could even have scoops of different flavors.

This grandma–her name is Elizabeth–was the first woman to head the California Construction Assocation.  She was the first woman to head a California construction company.  Back in college, she got a degree in French and Physical Education.  This is before most women took PE.  This is a woman ahead of her time and fearless, absolutely fearless, because even when she was worried or afraid–and I know there were times she had to have been–she still acted.  She still moved forward.  She never gave up.

Yesterday Grandma couldn’t talk.  She just looked at me. 

And looking at her, my heart hurt because it loves this person so much and I didn’t want to cry but I couldn’t help it.  I’d lean forward and kiss her, and stroke her hair and tell her, I love you, Grandma. 

At three thirty I had to start thinking about heading back to the Fresno airport and returning my rental car since my flight boarded at 4:55.  She’d been dozing and when she opened her eyes once, I leaned over and told her, I have to go soon, Grandma.  I have to go back to Seattle.  And she looked at me so long, looked at me for forever, and her eyes were watery and it hurt even more.  She can’t say what she wants, thinks, needs, feels.  She can’t ask for a nurse to lift her.  Can’t say she’s choking.  Can’t say goodbye Jane, or are you going to come back again, Jane?

I’m glad I flew down to Fresno.  I’m so very glad I spent time at her bed.  And even happier to see she has such good care.  That she has frequent visitors and wonderful nurses aids my uncles and mom have hired to sit with her during the day around the clock to make sure she is comfortable and able to breathe.  I know this, too:  when I am 96 I hope I am loved as much as she is.  I hope there will be children and grandchildren who will love me as dearly as she is loved.  I hope there will be caregivers who will rub my back, and massage my feet, and kiss me goodbye when they leave.

I know my grandmother has had a great life.  I just want there to be more.


  1. Jane,
    I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother having a stroke. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It is important she knows how much you love her. And, that you do….because your heart shows it.

    Love ya, Julie 🙂

  2. That’s a wonderful post. I have my own special grandmother.
    She married a rich man when she was young. He left her after WWII and she had to start over again in Chicago as a single parent to a young boy. She got a job at Greyhound and met my grandfather, whose Irish Catholic family was none too happy that she was a “divorcee.”
    They married and had seven more children. It wasn’t easy. My grandfather was a funny, sweet person and he was also an alcoholic who drank away the family funds. They lived in a poor neighborhood that got worse. My grandmother often worked two jobs to make ends meet.
    But to this day she is the most light-hearted person you could ever meet. At 87, she is still always looking towards the future, never weighed down by her past. And she still loves to eat ice cream and gossip.
    I am sorry my post is so long! Your post reminded me that I need to give my Nana a call. Thanks and best wishes for your grandmother.

  3. Jane, you met my grandma and that was a very special night for her. She is so dear to me and I am so glad for the 3 precious years I’ve had with her while living in MT.

    I’m so glad you had a chance to visit your grandma and sit by her bed and let your souls connect once again.

  4. Jane, Sending heartfelt prayers out to you, your grandmother and the rest of the family at this time. Reading your post, I feel like I know your grandmother. She sounds like an amazing woman. I am so glad that you have such wonderful memories of her and I hope that you get to make some more together.

  5. Hi Jane,

    I’m so sorry about your grandma. She sounds like such a lovely person. I think all of us just want to feel like we made a difference in this life, and she sounds like she has had such a wonderful impact on you. I know that she feels all of the love that you have for her. Take care,

  6. Hi Jane,
    I am saddened to hear about your Grandmother, your both in my thoughts and prayers.
    My Grandmother was very special to me, she was the one who shared the wonderful world of books and reading. I would stay overnight on weekends, and she would have her stack of True Story & Hollywood magazines and novels. I would have my own stack of books and we would talk and read. She gave me my first Harlequin to read.
    Find comfort in knowing you will always have wonderful memories, and that she has so many people who love her and will take care of her.
    She sounds like an amazing woman.

  7. Jane,

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother! Please know you are in our prayers and thoughts. I have my special grandma who turned 80 at Christmas and am looking forward to seeing her today:) She, too, always was found reading a good book or sewing me a pretty outfit when I was growing up. She is the ultimate “Nana” as I am sure yours is too:) Have a good holiday and be sure to send your grandma kisses and hugs to get better soon.

  8. Jane, so sorry to hear about your Grandmother’s stroke. She sure sounds like one special lady to you. It is so wonderful you got to spend some time with her…I’m sure it meant the world to both of you.

    I was very close to my Grandmother too and I’m pretty sure she is responsilbe for my love of shopping!!! My only regret is that I never had a chance to say goodbye to her.

    I will be keeping you both in my thoughts and prayers.

    Many hugs,

  9. Jane, that was a beautifully heartfelt post. Your Grandma sounds like a lovely and strong woman — much like you! I’m so sorry to here about her ailing health. My thoughts are with you. Your description of her reminded me of my own Grandma — the only grandparent I have left. She would, and still does, tell it like it is and always speak her mind. She still denies it to this day, but I learned my first, and favorite, swear word from her — both in English and Italian. 🙂

    Big hugs to you, Jane. I’m so glad you had the chance to go spend some time with her. I’ve no doubt that meant the world to her.


  10. That was a wonderful post, Jane! I cried…because I have one of those grandmas, too. Thankfully, at 93, she’s more like a 75-yo, active and busy and lives close by. Still, I need to see her more before it’s too late. I’m so glad you had time with her, and I’m sure, though she couldn’t tell you, she was very glad for her time with you, too.


  11. Jane,
    I am very sorry to hear about your Grandmother, but happy to hear that you were able to spend time with her.
    Grandmothers hold a special place in all of our lives.
    Isn’t it funny the things we remember, the bolonga sandwiches and jars of marshmallows. It really makes us realize how the simple things in life are what truly bring us happiness and create life long memories.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  12. For your Grandma to hold half of your heart is huge since you have such a big heart.

    Thank you for sharing your Grandmother with us. She sounds like a special woman.

  13. I have a grandmother named Elizabeth too, she’s now 90 and just moved into assisted living this fall. Lots of spunk and life in her.

    I’m so glad you could go to Fresno. I hope for all the best for you and her, she sounds wonderful

  14. Oh Jane – I think your post “For Elizabeth” might be the most touching I have ever read. You both are so fortunate to have had each other for all these years. I have an image of your grandmother in my mind and you stroking her hair. God Bless Her and you as well. You are a wonderful grandaughter and know that I am praying for her and you.

  15. … made me cry. am crying now. =/ I remember when my great grandparents were a live…I feel incredibly… ehh just yeah. I’m not good with ocmforting people, but you’re a good person. Your Grandmother sounds like a great person. I can’t imagine it. gah. signing off now.

  16. Jane, I wish your Grandma could read your loving tribute to her – but really, deep down, you know she doesn’t have to. She knows how much you love her and you don’t need words to read or even to say to prove that. Just the fact that you were there for her will tell her all she needs to know and she’ll be able to hold that close to her even when you’re not there.

    I know that at 96, it’s not possible to wish for a wonderful recovery and rehabilitation but I will pray for gentleness and quality in the life your wonderful Grandma still has. And I’ll hold both of you in my thoughts and prayers.



  17. Jane–so glad you were able to make that trip to Fresno. Your grandma knows how much you love her and that bond, that love, will always be. I’ll keep you and your wonderful grandma in my heart and prayers.


  18. Hopefully your beloved grandmother will recover soon. But even so, she has left a lasting legacy in you, and that lasts much longer. She left footprints on your heart and helped shape you into the woman, and writer, you are today. All of us loyal readers can be gratful to her for being such a strong positive influence in your life.

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