On Saturday October 22, 2016, my family gathered in Sudbury, Ont. We were celebrating the 90th birthday of my lovely grandmother, Margaret. Over 100 people congregated in the church basement that day: a mix of my grandma’s family, extended family, old friends, new friends… people who were mostly strangers to me.
Ahead of time, I decided that as a birthday gift for my grandma, I would make a little radio program about her. And while it went against my usual behaviour at family functions, I actually talked to people I didn’t know. Shocking business! I recorded these interviews and used them to make this episode.
Over the course of the interviews I noticed several patterns. Often, her friends and cousins would call her Maggie, which is a name I’d never associated with her; it was a glimpse into a side of her that I’d never known. Second, many people struggled at first to recount a story in which she took a major role. Instead, party-goers tended to speak about the way she supported others and quietly facilitated things. The other common thread of the interviews was a mention of her grace, kindness, and love.
After the party ended, I interviewed my grandma’s daughters: my mom and aunts. Their perspectives on their mother was an interesting reflection of their personalities and aspirations for themselves. They singled out certain qualities in my grandma that they each admire. I was struck by how they felt they fall short.
For me, I echo the others. I love and admire my grandmother. She taught me how to make blueberry pie. In those memories, she embodies infinite patience and love. I hold pie as a formative experience from the childhood summers spent at her home in Sudbury.
In more recent years, I noticed her subtlety and kindness. There were moments in recent years when I chose to suffer and be sad silently, she was one of a very few who picked up on it, and offered kindness.
The music in this episode of Sounds Like Life is courtesy of Montreal-based band, We Were Towers.