Grandma was born December 3, 1920, but we grand kids wouldn’t get to meet her for another 50 years, until the 1970’s when we all came into the world.
The Muriel Thornton we all got to know was as warm as a fresh out of the oven cookie, caring, kind, and above all else, one of the most good natured souls I’ve ever known.
Sure, she could have a temper, and she could be stubborn as all get out…a trait that thankfully nobody in the family inherited, but by and large, Grandma Moo lived life with a smile on her face.
She was an awesome grandma, one of those people who was perfectly suited for the role. She spoiled us rotten, gave us more cookies than we ever needed, hugged us (even when we were too old and cool to be hugged), and could make any one of us feel like we were the most special person in the world.
Many of my favourite memories of childhood involve Grandma Moo and Grandpa Ralph, who left us twenty three years ago this April.
Their farm was an amazing place to be when we were kids.
Every one of us who sat at the kids’ table for holidays could tell you exactly where the cookies were kept, how to get to the mints, which she seemed to always have with her, and how to watch late night TV through the grate in the bedroom that looked down on the living room. I remember doing chores in the barn (it’s good for you, it’ll put hair on your chest), feeding apples to the horses, or just lazy days out on in the field wandering and exploring with Sandy the dog and whatever Tom or Tina cat decided to come out from the barn.
The farm is still an amazing place to be, and what Jay and Cheryl have done with the place is truly amazing.
Grandpa and grandma complemented each other excellently, him reminding her of the things she’d forget (I was regularly known as Brad/Jay/Eddie/bahhh Brian), while Grandma helped smooth some of RB’s…rougher edges.
I loved their affection for one another, Grandpa would sneak a hug in here or there, with Moo always squirming away, but still secretly loving it. I remember coming downstairs early one morning when Grandpa was heading off to work. Moo was working away at the sink when Grandpa came up from behind her and hugged her. The second step from the bottom gave me away and moo said “Get off me Ralph”, her tone feigning annoyance. Grandpa gave me a sly wink as I came into the kitchen.
Moo was a joker, always doing something to cause trouble, whether it was slipping a slice of cardboard in grandpa’s sandwich, or scaring us as kids by pretending to be asleep, and popping awake with a BOO.
She was at her peak when she had a co-conspirator to plot with. She and my mom scared the crap out of me one time by telling me that if I didn’t be quiet on the drive home they would drop me off at the farm where I was born.
Moo pointed out a particular farm, and together they agreed that was where my real parents were.
To this day I don’t like to talk in the car.
And I sometimes wonder about my real family.
Grandma Moo baked awesome treats too, watching Hockey Night In Canada would always be a good excuse for a batch of Fudge or Caramel Popcorn. I had my first cup of coffee in Grandma’s kitchen, I don’t think anything holds a candle to her stove top percolator.
Christmas was always my favourite holiday not just because of the after dinner treat plate, but because of Christmas Pudding.
One of the smartest things I ever did (besides marry my wife of course), was help Grandma make the Christmas Pudding…so that I could figure out how to make her sauce on my own. I’m pleased to say that after about a decade of experimenting, this past Christmas I perfected it.
As the big 4-0 approached last year, I started trying to figure out if there some meaning to life that I had overlooked. I sought to be happier, I read a lot about zen, and buddhism, and while I’m far from a buddhist, there’s a lot that appeals to me.
I found a book on zen and the art of happiness. In the book buddha tells the secret to being happy.
If one wants to be happy, the book says, One must simply be happy.
I tossed the book down, walked away from it, annoyed by such obvious advice. What kind of hippie quackery is this? Next thing you know they’ll tell me to put on a pair of Birkenstocks, go eat some granola and move to BC.
I didn’t go back to that book for several weeks, but occasionally when things made me angry, I’d just ignore them, smile, and just be happy.
It was this weekend, thinking about Moo that I realized she was more zen than I could ever possibly be.
Moo’s second family at the Liesure World where she spent nearly the last decade will tell you that she had such a great attitude, even though the years had worn her body down, and her memory failed her often, she still managed to have a smile on her face. Rather than be annoyed and overwhelmed, she’d smile her little smile, and just enjoy what was happening around her.
When I’d see her I would ask her if she knew who I was. Usually she didn’t (to be honest I look in the mirror occasionally and wonder who the old dude staring back at me is…also where did his hair go?), but she’d lean in and smile as if I was about to let her in on a joke, and when I told her she’d say “Of course you are.”, as if she knew all along.
So today I choose not to be sad. I won’t mourn for the amazing lady who left us to go be those who left before her, instead I’ll smile her wry smile, and simply do what Moo did.