"Nanna", the severe little woman we were always glad to have come to stay and equally glad to see go. She was our Grandmother - Nanna Fisher - practical nurse, traveler, widow. I remember her white uniform, her white shoes and stockings, her brisk manner in discussing "private parts of the body". It was embarrassing as a child to be asked if I'd had "my bowel movement today."
I did not have a close relationship with her until I was married and long gone from home. She seemed to me to be critical, bossy, not much fun to be with. But her baking was superb, those little freshly cooked donut holes she would pop into our mouths, those Parker House rolls, raisin filled cookies, chocolate cake with frosting to lick from the bowl. I have her recipes but have never matched her skill.
We minded her well, she was tough. I never remember her putting an arm around me. Her soothing touch was more apt to be the sting of iodine on a knee scrubbed of its scab.
But her influence has carried me well through life. She was always herself - her standards of exellence, what she would say that made the difference. "Children don't have nerves." she'd tell me when I complained of a headache. From her comment that she didn't need an alarm clock but could wake herself at will stayed with me and to this day I can wake on the dot of 7:00. To this day I'm uncomfortable lying in bed in the morning - she'd tell us uf we were awake, it was time to get up.
Her true gift to me was the person she was A woman without self-pity, she continued to expand her outlook throughout her life. She advised us when new mothers of with new ways to parent, to raise our children. At that time, she was in her seventies. She read biography and history and staying up with the news right into her nineties.
The greatest gift to me was the last time I saw her. Sitting in a chair with the book "The Pumpkin Papers" in her lap, she spoke of Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers. Then, out of the blue, she gave me her gift: "I am ready to go." No whining about aches, no misery about age, she left me that spirit of life, the knowing that age and death is not something to fear.
©Natalie Norman Baer
When that time comes, I too will be ready.