This past summer, Matt and I drove out to Thunder Bay to look at motorcycles. On our way back out of town we went through the drive-through at a Mexican restaurant, where Matt told the teenage girl running the intercom that he did not want tomatoes on his food, no less than three times. We committed the cardinal sin of driving away from the restaurant without looking at our food, and surprise surprise, as soon as Matt bit into his burrito he spit it out in disgust– it was chock full of tomatoes. He grumbled and kept driving, as we were already halfway out of congested traffic. I, on the other hand, insisted he turn around, go in the restaurant, and demand new food. When he came out with new, tomato-free burritos and the old burritos, I felt strangely proud. We were halfway out of traffic again when the light bulb went off over my head. I laughed, turned to Matt, and told him, “I think I just had a Grandma Mary moment.”
My favourite story to tell about my grandmother is the time she ordered fish and chips delivered to the house. The hapless employees at the shop forgot to put tartar sauce in with the food, something Grandma discovered after the driver had left. She not only called to complain, she demanded the driver come back across town and deliver her tartar sauce– all two tiny packets of it. And he did.
From her, I learned the trick of turning on the oven timer after you order pizza so you can accurately tell the delivery driver they took 30 minutes and twenty seconds and your pizza is now free.
I’ve realized, over the years, that I’ve inherited my Grandma’s sense of justice. When the TV network cancelled Lamb Chops in favour of Barney when I was five and I asked my mom if I could write a letter to the TV people to complain? That was a Grandma Mary moment. In sixth grade, when I decided it was wrong that kids were getting extra time for our province-wide standardized tests, just to make our school’s rankings better? Grandma Mary moment. It hasn’t faded with age, either. Last year, when I wrote an email CC’d to the mayor and every council member in our town because I had to deal with a lazy town employee who refused to waive my hydro deposit, even though I had an acceptable reference letter? Grandma Mary moment. When I threatened to take our former landlords to the Landlord Tenant Board if they tried to charge us a damage deposit? I think she would have been proud.
But Grandma didn’t just teach me how to be stubborn. She also taught me to pay attention to the little people and the little things that others might not notice. She had this way of digging deeper than the surface to dredge out how you were really feeling. I still remember her taking me to Dairy Queen, which she said was our little secret, because I was upset that my sister and my older cousin got to go to the movies with boys and I didn’t. It’s not that I wanted to go to the movies, but I was feeling left out and lonely, and Grandma not only noticed but took me under her wing for the day and took my mind off of everything.
I buy a big bottle of good rye every year on Matt’s birthday. We drink it slowly over the months, toasting to celebrations and sadness alike. It has become part of our relationship, taking on the roles of both the cherry on top of a fantastic thing, and as the only thing we have in common in a dark moment. The usual rule is that it has to be taken as a shot and both of us have to be there, but Matt gave me his blessing to bend the rules today, on the first anniversary of Grandma Mary’s death.
I’ve mixed myself a nice rye and ginger, just like she liked, and with it, I’m wishing for no more funerals, no more emergency flights home, no more shopping for black clothes. I’m wishing for health and strength and longevity for everyone I love. Most of all, I’m lifting my glass, in remembrance and honour of the lady who taught me that anyone can do anything, and everyone can be someone.