Opinion: A grandmother’s love


Kate Knauff

Grammy (upper left), Nana (lower left), MeMe (right)

The oversized heels on my 7-year-old feet click on the floor of the hotel bathroom as I confidently walk out to the room my grandma, MeMe, was staying in. It had been a long day of window-shopping and fine dining, and I was wearing a brand-new bright pink tulle skirt and a sequined, zebra print shirt from my childhood favorite store, Justice.

With one hand posed on my hip and my other hand in my hair, MeMe showers me in praises about how I should be a model when I grow up.

When I was 15, MeMe’s husband died, so I put on my tea-length black dress and yellow heels to attend the funeral. After the memorial, my family met up for dinner before we had to drive home. At dinner, MeMe asked me about the meals she had seen me cook on Facebook and told me that I look beautiful in my dress.

MeMe passed away last July after struggling with dementia. The last time I saw her, her limbs were smaller than before, and her usually perfect hair was frizzy and knotted. She could barely remember what we were talking about and would go on long rants about the infomercials on the TV, but she still remembered that day when I was young, window-shopping and playing dress-up.

MeMe was my grandfather’s second wife, but his first wife, Grammy, was the antithesis of MeMe. Grammy single-handedly raised my dad and aunt, and she is the toughest woman I have ever known. It may seem as if Grammy and MeMe would not be friends, but toward the end of their lives, they were inseparable.

When I was a kid, Grammy was a volunteer at the Houston Rodeo, so my family, MeMe, Grammy and I would go almost every year. One year in particular, MeMe convinced all of us to be in the rodeo parade. MeMe helped me choose out a sparkly pink hat and pink cowgirl boots while Grammy told me about her days growing up on a farm in Missouri.

Later in her life, Grammy got very sick. Since I was so young, I didn’t ask too many questions, but I remember going to the hospital to visit her. She refused to sit in her wheelchair and instead would push around an empty wheelchair, using it as a walker.

After she left the hospital, she was supposed to use a wheelchair when walking long distances. When we went to the rodeo that year though, every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of Grammy pushing MeMe around in her wheelchair. I remember my mom was so mad because MeMe had no reason to be in the wheelchair, but I thought it was a perfect example of Grammy’s strength and stubbornness.

Grammy taught me what it was like to be a strong woman, but more than that, she taught me how to act with grace and compassion. Every time we went to visit her, she would show us her love by cooking pounds of food for us and sending us home with boxes of frozen meals.

My third grandma is my mom’s mom, Nana. Out of all of my grandmas, she has taught me the most.

Each holiday, Nana hosts our entire 16-person family in her small house that was built in the 1970s. It is a shock that the stampede of six elementary school boys hasn’t broken too many of Nana’s delicate trinkets, but even if they did, she would forgive them with grace.

It is a bit of a family tradition to play the domino game Mexican Train when we visit. The first time I played it though, I was really bad at it. I mean I had about 20 dominoes left over at the end of the game when everyone else had single digits. Even though Nana came in second place for that round and I was in last, she quit so she could help me play. Together, we still didn’t do well, but at least I wasn’t finishing dead last anymore. Small acts of kindness like that are what make up her personality, and she is who I look up to the most.

Some people may think it is odd that I have three grandmas, but for me, that’s three times more love and three times as many lessons. MeMe, Grammy and Nana all have very different personalities, but I carry each one of them with me in the way I dress, act and work.