She was an English war bride. As a young woman, she left her homeland and all she knew to live in America with her second husband. Before coming here, she had already lost her first husband to the same war after merely months of marriage. Her name was Joan. She had a kind and gentle soul with a soft lilting voice, tones of which reminded me of a string of tinkling brass bells moved by mellow winds. A true lover of children, she was the mother of only one daughter who lived too far away in California. Joan’s husband was cared for in a near-by nursing home where he lived with Alzheimer’s disease. It was there that she spent several nights a week feeding him dinner.
Jayson was a baby when we moved to Arizona. We needed the extra income so I decided to get my Real Estate license like I had in Michigan. New homes and subdivisions were starting to be built all over Arizona. It was an area I wanted to explore. One day, I asked Jayson’s pediatrician for a referral since he had two young boys, himself. He was the one who told me about, Joan. How lucky I was!
It didn’t take long before she became a member of our family. We began to call her, “Grandma Joan.” She loved my son, Jayson, like her own. She took him for walks in his stroller where he dangled his hand to pet her poodle, “Pepper,” along the way. She taught him to feed yellow, quacking ducks in the green pond at the park, or read him fairy-tales before naps. Sometimes she toppled A.B.C. blocks while sitting with him on the floor. When my second son was born she added him to the fold, rocking him in her arms with the other on her knee. I used to see her waiting for us at the window when we drove up. Her curtains were parted. There she’d be, peeking out with anticipation!
Before long, “Grandma Joan,” spent almost every holiday with us including Christmas and birthdays. I made sure to bake her favorite German chocolate cake for a “milestone” birthday one year, while my boys surprised her with presents she didn’t need but loved to receive. One year, on Christmas, she delighted me with the gift of an afghan that took many hours of toil. I still wrap myself up in it today, taking the St. Louis chill away. She taught my children manners and messages that can never be replaced, while giving me memories of English grace.
Sometimes when we were alone, I saw a hint of pain carefully hidden behind golden wire rims and pools of sensitive blue eyes. I’m guessing she had been through much in her 70 years or more. Her proper English upbringing never allowed her to divulge anything private, no matter how close we were. still she was family. Sometimes words were not necessary.
She was my own, “Mrs. Doubtfire.”