In the late 1960's, my mom suffered two tragedies. First, her eight year old son was hit and killed by a teenage driver. Shortly after, her dad died of a heart attack. My mom and dad were devastated and their two daughters heart broken. My grandma, who lived in Indiana, was lost, alone, and incredibly sad to have lost her husband and only grandson. In 1973, my parents brought me home from their lawyer's office. My sisters conspired to not tell the social worker that I cried in fear of me being sent back. I brought joy and life back into the family. Just before my birth my grandma was on the verge of a breakdown. She was not doing well at all. My parents told her they were adopting a baby and she perked up a little. Her name was Ruby Elizabeth Shaw. My parents named me Kathryn Shaw, in Grandma's honor. Shortly after I arrived, she came to visit for the first time.
I've grown up hearing that I saved my grandma's life. My mom told me this again when I visited her and my dad last weekend. Knowing that you saved someone's life is an unbelievable thing. When Grandma would come to Florida to visit, she'd stay at least a month. She always stayed in my room and we'd drive my parents crazy staying up till all hours talking when I was in elementary school. She bought me a brand new dresser, hutch, and bed when I was about five years old. My 17 year old now has the hutch and my 8 year old has the dresser. When I was in junior high, Mom and I went to visit Grandma like we had for a few summers. My sisters were older and in college so Mom and I would fly up for a week. We started noticing Grandma telling the same stories over and over. About a year later, we learned that she had Alzheimer's. Easter weekend I stayed with my oldest sister and her husband while Mom and Dad went to Indiana to bring Grandma to live with us. I was so excited to have her full time, but little did I know how hard the next few years would be. Over time, Grandma forgot who Mom and I were and, eventually, she had to be moved to a nursing home. We would go see her but we'd have to keep reminding her who we were. Watching my grandma go through this while I was in high school was just horrible. I missed talking with her, learning to crotchet with her, cooking homemade noodles with her, and having her remember who I was. Two months before I graduated high school, Mom came into my room to tell me Grandma had passed away. The next week our family flew to Indiana to say our final goodbyes. I took her death very hard and, even now, twenty-two years later, it still hurts. Several months ago, my mom gave me my grandma's wedding and engagement rings. She knew I wanted them and I'm blessed to know how special they were to Mom and Grandma. Although Grandma is gone, she lives on in our hearts. My middle sister carries Grandma's middle name as does my second daughter. My daughter never got to meet her great-grandma but she knows how special she was to me and is honored to be named after her. Stories, memories, pictures and jewelry will be passed along making sure that Grandma will never be forgotten.