Gray Matters — Firecracker
Belfast — A couple of weeks ago, I told you all about my Grammy Mitchell and all that I learned from her during my childhood.
This week, I wanted to write about another special lady, my grandmother on my mom's side. Her name was Eunice Sprague Thompson, and she was one of those I think us Maine folk would call a firecracker.
Ever since I can remember, Grammy Thompson was always on the go. She always drove Thunderbirds — I don't ever remember her driving any other type of vehicle, and it always seemed like she had a pretty full social calendar that kept her on the road a lot.
I never knew my Grandpa Thompson because he died long before I was born. A couple of my cousins remember him and have shared their memories of him with me. I can see why Grammy married him; the stores people have told me over the years have painted a picture of a hardworking man who enjoyed a good laugh and spending time with his family.
That said, Grammy Thompson was a young widow, being in her 40s when her husband passed away. But at a time when so many could easily close off the world and let their grief rule the remainder of their days, that was not something I remember seeing in Grammy.
I wasn't even thought of when Grandpa Thomson passed, and I can only guess how hard it must have been for my grandmother, having lost her husband and life partner at such a young age. The grandmother I remember appeared to live each day to the fullest. She loved what she loved, and that included her car, hard candies, and all things having to do with her beloved Boston Red Sox. I only wished she'd lived long enough to see her favorite ball team break the curse, but I like to think she was here in spirit.
Whenever she came over to my house when I was a kid, she never knocked. We always knew it was her when front door swung open, followed by the sound of her unmistakable voice shouting, "Anybody home?" The dogs would always go crazy with their barking for the initial few seconds until they realized it was Gram; then they'd both slink away, tails slightly wagging and hanging their heads in what appeared to be embarrassment.
Grammy had a pretty active social life, too, and her friends were just as full of spunk as she was. One thing all of them enjoyed very much was their group trips across the state to the different horse racing tracks, and I think they all liked the excitement of betting on the horses just as much as seeing the races — especially Grammy.
And she was one of those who had a bit of luck about her. Grammy would often return home from the races, or Atlantic City, telling takes of how she won a bunch of cash and had the good sense to walk away before the house reclaimed her prize. She'd always come back with interesting gifts for myself, my brother and my two older cousins, which she would present while recounting her latest adventure.
Grammy was very close to her sister, my great-aunt Edna; so close, in fact, that they married brothers, making everyone from that side of the family double cousins. Her relationship with Auntie was always good, and while she lived with her son (my Uncle Jim) for a lot of my childhood, she later moved in with Auntie a few years after my great-uncle Emery passed away.
Through the years that led up to their final days, they supported each other and gave each other strength during the tough times. In the end, Grammy passed away on what would have been Auntie's birthday. A few years later, Auntie died on Grammy's birthday.
I still miss both of those ladies and think of them often. Mostly, I remember how strong and independent they were as long as I knew them, how each of them made time for their families and valued their circle of friends, and how both were always willing to give their time and attention to someone they cared about.
These days, even though it's been quite a few years since they've left us, I still get lots of reminders about they different ways these women, especially Grammy, touched my life.
Every time the Red Sox have a winning season, or some lucky lady wins big at the horse track, I smile and say to myself, "This is for you, Gram."