In Memorium – Grandma Irma Patterson

Irma Patterson

Born: August 21, 1918

Died: July 10, 2013



My Grandmother died according to her wishes: At home, peacefully in her sleep with her own teeth and her own hair. I don’t know why those last two were so important to her, but I’m happy to know that she got what she wished. She will be missed. Below is the Eulogy that I presented at her memorial.


GrandmaWhen I think about my grandma, I remember the woman I knew growing up. She was full of spunk. She knew how to get things done and still have time to play a quick – yea right – game of Scrabble or Kings in the Corner. She had a sharp wit and she didn’t dumb it down. She was full of knowledge that I wanted to absorb – like the best lures to use for catching Sun Fish, or the names of plants in the forest, or most importantly, how to bake short bread cookies.

What I remember most, in a strange sort of way, is the cooking fork. She used that cooking fork to teach me the most enduring lessons. Keep my elbows off the table. Practice the piano right. Sit or stand up straight. When to keep my thoughts to myself. She wielded that cooking fork with all the precision of a martial arts master.

Now, you might think that poking someone with a cooking fork is a cruel way to remind them to keep good posture. As a kid I would have agreed with you, but I’ve grown up since then. I’ve learned the importance of good posture. I understand why I shouldn’t lean my elbows on the table during dinner. I get it that there are some things that I shouldn’t say out loud if I want to have a good relationship with the people around me. I learned to practice things right. To stop when I miss a note (or a word or a sign) and fix it. That last one has served me best in my adult life.

The cooking fork is a symbol of Grandma’s love. She didn’t poke me with it to hurt me, but to remind me. The fact that I had to think what it meant each time branded the lessons into my mind far better than any gentle reminder or even nagging could have. I may not have noticed back then, but I feel it now. She wanted me to be my best.

At the Scrabble board, she took a different tactic. Grandma was always willing to beat anyone at Scrabble, but she wasn’t mean about it. In the early days, she helped me see the words in my hand. It wasn’t until recently that she stopped that, though I needed it less as my vocabulary expanded. For her, the love was in playing with the words. It was getting the triple word scores. Fun was a good close game. There were no cooking forks at the Scrabble board, only practice. That fed my lifelong love of words.

She tried to follow her own rules too. She didn’t always get it right, but then who does. The important part was that she tried. She not only taught by poking or giving hints. She was a living example. An example not only of how to do it, but how to try. She showed how to face an imperfect as an imperfect human and come out with your dignity and stubbornness in tact.

I won’t need to think very hard to remember Grandma. She is with me every day. She is there when I sit up straight and keep my elbows off the table. She is there when I savor a good new word. She is here when I reach for perfection. And I know she loves me even when I don’t quite make it.


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