My mother died 7 years ago this month. It’s always fresh in my mind. I was sub teaching at our local High School. I kept thinking I should continue the history class after being informed of Mom’s passing. I was numb. Seven years later, I still really haven’t cried.
We received word a short time ago that Grandma Kraus died today. She wasn’t my grandmother but I called her Grandma as did many others. Muriel, as family and close friends called her, would have been 104 tomorrow. Just last night, Marilyn and I were talking about family and how Grandma Kraus might outlive all of us.
Her grandson, Owen, received the news by phone just as he was getting ready to go to work. His biggest concern before taking the call was coping with yet more falling snow on our already hazardous roads. Owen and his family live downstairs in our house so I saw his face when I stomped in from the snow. He repeated the message because I’m practically deaf. I heard him the first time but didn’t believe the news. Sandy, Owen’s Wife, came in and hugged him. I waited a moment and also hugged him. He didn’t pull away. He just cried softly. I think Sandy called Owen’s boss to explain what had happened and that Owen might not be in for work.
I didn’t know Grandma Kraus as well as other family members and close friends. I hadn’t seen her in years. But every year of our marriage, Marilyn and I have been remembered with cards and very thoughtful gifts from Grandma Kraus.
“You can call me Muriel”, the elegant lady told me during my first visit to her home more than 50 years ago. She could have been that elegant character actress Gladys Cooper. Matter of fact, she WAS the real life version of the legendary actress. Muriel was my best friend, Jeff’s mom. She made me feel comfortable. No small task back in those days. She approved of what she called my good manners and seemed very pleased that I was her son’s best friend. She confided that she didn’t think highly of many of Jeff’s friends. It’s a good thing Muriel didn’t know about some of the social habits that forged my friendship with her son. I was invited back to the Kraus home several times with Muriel apparently telling Jeff to make sure I knew I was very welcome. Jeff always seemed surprised his mother liked me. So did I.
Over the years, Muriel stayed in touch with Mother, sending her elegant, hand written letters. I found one or two of the letters after Mom died. Muriel had followed my career and told Mother how proud she was of me. I was surprised. I’m not sure Muriel shared those same sentiments with Jeff who mentored many people including me.
My last visit with Muriel is a bit hazy. It was years ago after Muriel and her daughter, Gail, had moved to a very small town in northern Maine. Muriel must’ve been in her late 80′s or early 90′s. She was still very, very spry and busy in the kitchen. Her hearing was on the wane which made for great conversation as I tweaked my hearing aids to chat with her. Muriel asked about my family, remembering almost all of them. I helped set the table for one meal and caught Muriel smiling at me. “You still have good manners, Garry”. I blushed and Muriel’s smile grew bigger.