Grandma Fern

My whole life, Grandma Fern and I lived a thousand kilometres apart, but I’d spend large chunks of summer vacations visiting with her. The summer that I was six, she woke me up at three in the morning and we watched the Royal Wedding together; we were equally enchanted by the dresses and the fairy taleIt was a given, then, that thirty years later we would both get up at three in the morning, in our separate houses, and with our separate friends, to watch the other Royal Wedding. I called Grandma later that morning and we talked about the dresses and the fairy tale. We talked about how improbably handsome Prince Harry had become, if Pippa’s dress was appropriate, and how slim Carole Middleton looked. Grandma was of the opinion that Camilla Parker-Bowles should not have even been invited to the wedding, to which I replied that she should, since after all she is Prince William’s stepmother. She is NOT, Grandma retorted, She is nothing but a home wrecker. I should have known better. Topics to never discuss with Grandma include boredom, evolution, and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Grandma told me once that she wasn’t the best housekeeper in the world, but she sure could make a good roast. She was an amazing cook and she had the ability to cook for twenty hungry people like it was nothing at all. She had a huge garden, which she loved. When I visited her she made a vegetable stir fry for the two of us, or fresh-from-the-garden tomato sandwiches. She was always doing something; baking, cooking, or watching the Blue Jays on TV. 

She loved the Blue Jays and she never missed a game. I was careful not to phone her when a game was on TV because I knew that her desire to talk to me would be much tempered by her desire to not miss a play. She had opinions about the batting order and who should be pitching when. When the Blue Jays lost she would turn off the TV in disgust, but the game would always be on again, the next day.

I also knew, if I phoned her when she had friends over, to tell her I would call back another time. When friends were over, they would be playing cards and I knew Grandma would want to get back to the game right away. She loved cards and would keep score on a notepad, writing “Us” versus “Them”.

Grandma was so funny. She, my mom, and I were walking through a department store lingerie section. My mom flipped her hand on a lacy, skimpy negligee. Oh yes, Grandma said, That looks very serviceable. Once I was helping her fasten her necklace before a family wedding. Oooh, Grandma, you smell nice, I said. Well, it’s hard, you know, with perfume. Grandma replied. You have to put it where you want to be kissed.

Oh, Grandma. When I picture her in my mind, she’s in her kitchen, cooking up a storm, wearing capri pants and a long blouse, in purple or blue or turquoise, and little Isotoner slippers on her feet. Her hair is done and she has lipstick on, and a cup of coffee is sitting on the counter.

She was the strongest person I had ever known. She was widowed at age 32, with six young children. She married my grandpa, who had four children of his own, the youngest being my dad. Grandma told me that before they were married, Grandma had my dad at her house and he – and all the other six children – came down with whooping cough. The youngest two, my twin aunts, were hit the hardest. Grandma said that Grandpa came over to give Grandma a rest; she slept that night while he watched the kids. The next day the party lines lit up, with the hottest gossip in the small town. Clifford’s car was there ALL NIGHT. And them not married yet!

She never slept much; she had so much energy. I could wake up at any time of the night, and Grandma would be sitting at the kitchen table, with a crossword puzzle. She did a crossword puzzle every day and what I wouldn’t give to do one with her right now.

She loved her church and she was strongly religious. When I was a kid, I would go to Vacation Bible School at her church, and I would enjoy the special treatment and minor celebrity of being “Fern’s granddaughter”. She was aghast when she found out my future husband was Catholic, although she warmed slightly when I told her he wasn’t exactly practicing. Once when I visited her, my darling cousins Brittany and Melissa came over too. Grandma said to Brittany, Nicole came all the way to Calgary to see me, you need to come over more often! To which my cousin Melissa replied I see Grandma every week at church! Brittany and I laughed, because there was no way we could top that one.

Grandma Fern didn’t have a particularly easy life, but she wasn’t one for self-pity or complaining; a characteristic I want to strive for. She had no use for feeling sorry for oneself; she made the best of every situation. I was one of many, many grandchildren, but she always made me feel special. She was the best grandma a girl could have, and I miss her so much already. Hey, what’s a seven word for love? Starts with G. Sixth letter is M.



  1. Nicole, this is a beautiful and loving tribute to your Grandma Fern – obviously a special and unique woman. Thank you for sharing her with all of us.

  2. Lovely, Nicole – you, and your grandma. Sending you warm and healing thoughts.

  3. Love to you. I lost my grandmother this spring, and it has been ridiculously more difficult than it has any right to be. It’s a special bond.

  4. You really painted a picture of her with your stories. I’m sorry for your loss, Nicole.

  5. Grandmas are the best. I’m so sorry for your loss, Nicole.

  6. This is the best and most lovely tribute I could imagine. I feel as though I knew her in a small way. And she sounds great. I’m sorry, Nicole.

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  8. Steph Lovelady says

    What a nice tribute.

  9. That’s a very lovely eulogy.

  10. I’m so sorry to hear this news Nicole. But I love that you shared this with us. Your words about her are beautiful.

  11. I’m sorry for your loss, Nicole. Your grandma was obviously a fantastic woman and you’ve written a beautiful tribute to her.

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