She was an English war bride, named Joan. Losing her first love shortly after throwing her bouquet, she left her homeland and all that she knew to live in America with her second husband while still grieving her first. It wasn’t long after the war, and she had dreams of the new world awaiting her.
Joan was a kind and gentle soul who had a soft lilting voice, the tone of which reminded me of a string of tinkling brass bells moved by mellow winds during the warmth of a late spring day. While I worked outside the home, Joan sat for my eldest son who was just a baby at the time. It didn’t take long before our family more or less adopted her, calling her, “Grandma Joan.” She touched my baby as though he was her own, rocked him gently and bundled him close. Joan took him for rides in a stroller where he dangled a pudgy fist, hoping her black poodle, Pepper, would tickle it with his pink tongue. She taught him to feed fuzzy, quacking ducks in the lime green pond of the park and read him fairy tales before tucking him in for naps before toppling A.B.C. blocks. And, when my second son was born she joyously added him to the fold, kissing him from head to toe.
Before long, “Grandma Joan,” spent almost every holiday with us including Christmas and birthdays. I remember whipping up her favorite German chocolate cake for a milestone birthday one year, while my toddlers surprised her with presents she didn’t need but loved to receive. One Christmas day, she delighted me with the gift of an angel soft afghan colored in cream. Surely it took many hours of love and toil to make such a dream. Today, nearly thirty years later, I still wrap up in the warmth of it while dozing in her scent. Joan taught my children manners and messages that can never be replaced while giving me memories of proper grace.
Occasionally, I sensed a chasm of pain behind Joan’s golden rims of wire. Reflecting pools of blue never to surface. A life of youth and love sunken by war and loss. As close as we were, some things were better left unspoken. People come in and out of each other’s lives at just the right time as part of fate or from a plan high above in Heaven. During the time we spent with Joan, her husband was dying in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s disease. And, before meeting Joan, my own little family had just moved from out-of-state. We craved the love and touch of maternal wisdom. Suddenly, out of nowhere hearts and homes collided providing both with an extension of a family. Kindness, trust, and love.
This morning a chill is in the air. Doodle dog is by my side as I sit by the fire wrapped in an afghan of cream where I am forever thankful for “Grandma Joan.”