Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gladys Duncan

By now most of my close friends know that I recently lost someone very special to me – my last grandparent. Gladys Duncan lived just around the corner from me my entire life. She was a cook and caretaker, a chauffeur and a sharer, a fabulous lady and a friend. She was one of my best friends.

Looking back it’s funny what sticks out in your head about someone so close to you.  I didn’t have many bad times with Grandma. One time she took my hand and told me I was being spoiled, but she was absolutely right in that moment. Other than that – she never did anything but support and love me.

Thinking of Grandma

Grandma knew the only two things that could put me in a bad mood: I was either tired or hungry. (and really…has much changed?) If it was rest that I needed, Grandma would let me put on a movie musical (only Disney and the classics of course) and let me hang out on her couch. If it was the latter, she knew how to make these amazing hot dogs.  My sisters and I still wonder how it is she made such great hot dogs. (We have since admitted to trying to replicate this delicacy. We fail each time, even when using the 100% beef franks, the same double quilted paper towels, and her method of heating the dog before the bun and cheese were added.)

Grandma was a very clever person. She maintained her finances by watching the stock market and reading the paper every day. How many of you had the childhood game of recording stock prices as they ran across the screen? She kept it up her entire life. In fact, at her wake, my father said she had recently bought Facebook stock at just the right time and made a big profit…she didn’t even know how to turn on a computer but the woman knew business...and she was profiting from Facebook!

I think Grandma was a pretty woman as well.  I mean, we are all destined to have that bouffant hair style after the age of 75, but she pulled it off well. She lost weight and gained weight, she lost teeth and gained dentures, and wasn’t always wearing the fanciest thing in the room….but she was always well kept and carried a beautiful attitude that didn’t make her looks even part of the picture. (Which I’ve decided is my knew healthy goal in life…don’t let looks be part of the picture)

Thinking of Gladys

Gladys graduated valedictorian of her high school class and married her high school sweetheart - a Texas Aggie from the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets (K-1, for those wondering.) Dewey left school to fight the war.

Gladys never mentioned much about the sudden loss of her husband, Dewey Duncan. She never remarried and lived alone over 35 years after his heart attack getting ready for work one day in (his 50s I believe).  Instead she managed her own finances, raised 3 children and even did her own grocery shopping until she turned 90 years old.   She was, for all intents and purposes, single through a lot of her adult life.

That’s why she and I really started to bond towards the end of college. She was really one of the only people in my family to “get” being a single adult. She taught me how to cook for 1, we debated the best Lean Cuisine meals for weeknights, and she always knew if there was something interesting going on in town.

And the football. While her preference was always college football, that woman knew everything about football! We would talk about the games while doing our Saturday morning chores – I never could bring her new news about football.

Throughout her 80’s, Gladys and I would spend a couple of days at Christmas – just us- wrapping gifts and shopping for last minute presents. We always found a bargain. We also always went to Pappadeaux. I knew Gladys and I had become friends when the waitress would ask us what we wanted to drink and Gladys would say “ Well I guess I’ll have an extra dirty martini” – at 12 noon on a weekday!

My last memories

I got a job in London and could not have been happier about it. When I called my Grandma, I knew something was wrong. She just wasn’t as excited as she normally was. She gave little digs that she usually saved for her in-laws: “I guess I’ll never see you…what sports will you watch over there? Do they even have good shopping there?” 

It didn’t hit me until now that Europe probably reminded her of the war, and how hard that must have been for her to comprehend. It didn’t hit me how many phone conversations we would stop having, or how I might not make it home in time to wrap her gifts.

She started asking more details about me living over there. How I would get from place to place, how expensive it was to live over there, how I would meet people. Knowing she was probably just a little worried, I made sure (like I did most years at Christmas) that I went to wrap all of her gifts and go out to our special lunch. I was leaving for London a few days after Christmas.

The night before I left, tensions were high. I was scared, my parents scared and my sisters probably just wanted some of the focus off of me. Grandma came over again for dinner that night to wish me well. She was a little quiet, but before she left she handed me a card. She was always really good at sending cards on special occasions. In that card Grandma left me enough money for 1 month’s rent (no small fee) as well as a bible verse she found which encouraged me to not be afraid.  That was her way of telling me it was OK to go.

She started having more serious health issues in the last few months but thankfully still had her mind completely intact. In fact, after recovering from sepsis in the ICU on New Year’s Eve, some of her first words were to tell a nurse he was wearing the wrong T-shirt. The Aggies had won and he was representing “those Longhorns.” I mean come on – her entire body was infected but she managed to find out A&M beat Duke and show a bit of attitude. Whoop!

I was not able to be there with the rest of my family as she passed in the hospital a few weeks later.  I know I spent a lot more time than most grandkids do with their grandparents, but it was not enough time with her.

Grandma - just like you told me-  I hope you were not afraid. It was OK to go. I know He is with me wherever I go, and you have now gone to be with Him.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go Joshua 1:9