When I was 24, my good friend exclaimed, “Callie, I just don’t understand you; you’re literally an 80-year-old in a 25-year-old body!” And from that moment on, I became the “grandma” of my friends. For so many years, this statement created roars of laughter, but after the recent passing of my grandmother, it has become a proud compliment reflecting the enormous impact she had on my life.
When I was growing up, my grandparents were active residents of North Kansas City, residing in a quaint neighborhood within Northtowne. My grandfather served as mayor of North Kansas City for almost 10 years, so needless to say, they were highly engaged with their community.
My earliest memories of my grandmother are the summers I spent at her house. On the warm days, I’d pick fresh vegetables from her garden, and she’d teach me everything I ever needed to know about fresh produce: tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and eggplants.
The warm days trailed into warmer nights, where she’d put me to work in her kitchen making eggplant parmesan and then send me on my way to half a dozen neighbors with plates of home-cooked food.
On the warmer nights that trailed into later evenings, we’d swing on her screened-in porch, dog-earring pages with recipes for the day to come. I passed my days mischievously rearranging all the “hens and chicks” plants, eating pounds upon pounds of freshly pulled carrots with Daisy sour cream, packing tin cans with decorated Christmas cookies months in advance, and delivering more food and sweets than the Schwan’s man to neighboring houses.
There were early-morning Saturday trips to the City Market where we’d collect fresh herbs, and of course, we never missed a nightly episode of Wheel of Fortune, just to name a few.
As time went on, so did the summers, and so did the memories. We spent many a day eating Topsy’s popcorn while watching the hot air balloons rise and fall at the Metro North Mall. We made day trips to the nearby theme park Worlds of Fun, and let’s not forget Moonlight Madness at The Jones Store every single year.
When I went to college, I spent my freshman year traveling an hour to her house each Sunday. While my dormmates were planning their weekend party routes, I was stocking up on yarn to knit and collecting recipes to make. Each week, I’d vent to her about the hardships of college living, we’d hang my laundry on her clotheslines, and she’d console me while I clipped coupons and she made dinner. We’d finish the day folding my clothes in her living room, and then she’d send me along my way with a big hug and kiss, always reminding me how much I was loved. It was in this phase of my life that my grandma became more than my grandma; she became a best friend. No matter what, she was always there for me with open arms.
Our Sunday visits continued throughout most of my twenties, but as time passed and my grandparents continued to age, our days looked very different from when I was a teenager. Grandma would clip the coupons, I’d do the grocery shopping, and after we’d make dinner, I’d fold and put away their laundry. We’d talk about politics, my perpetually single life, and of course, we’d unfailingly circle back to my dog, Polo, who’d stare at us from my grandma’s bed in hopes of sneaking a treat from her.
So much of who I am today is because of my grandma. The once moments, now memories, shaped the person I am, the things I’m most passionate about, and the professions I’ve pursued. I can’t imagine her loving me more deeply. She made me a better person, and I am forever grateful to have called her my grandma.
Her abundant love, kind heart, and generous soul will forever be missed.