This Woman’s Touching Tribute to Her Late Grandmother Will Warm Your Heart

"Grandma Norah passed away on October 1, 2004, just shy of her 76th birthday. To me, she was perfect; there’s nothing about her I would have changed."

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Grandma Norah with Tara's son, Ryan, in 1993
Courtesy of Tara Johnson Barnes

Bubble gum kisses

My Grandma Norah had a profound and everlasting effect on the lives of all who knew her, most of all mine. Grandma often knew how I was feeling without me ever having to speak a word. We shared a special connection and would complete each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. I could approach her about anything, at anytime, and she never judged or criticized. For all outward appearances, she was like most kindly granny types, affectionate, soft-hearted and easygoing. Yet, she had some little quirks that made her unique.

Grandma loved her family and enjoyed spending time with us at barbecues, birthday parties and family dinners. As a wee lass, I recall the excitement I felt whenever I learned we were going to visit Grandma. The anticipation of getting to spend time with her was nearly too much for me, and my parents, to handle.

Upon my arrival at her house, Grandma would greet me at the door with a warm smile and a hug. I would run into her waiting arms and she would scoop me up and take me inside. Once inside, Grandma would take me straight to the candy dish that she always kept filled with my favourite Bazooka Joe bubble gum. I would quickly grab a handful before we moved over to her favourite chair, so we could sit and snuggle. Filling my cheeks with pieces of bubble gum, I would quietly sit on her knee and chew until the gum became soft enough to form bubbles. Lacking a dis- tinct air for the art of bubble-blowing, I once ended up with a face full of the sticky sweet gum residue as the bubble quickly and violently exploded. The shocked expression on my face managed to send Grandma into a fit of giggles. Her laughter was so contagious that before long we were both giggling hysterically as tears rolled down our cheeks. I couldn’t help but throw my arms around her neck and plant a sticky bubble gum kiss on her rosy cheek, quickly forgetting all about the gooey mess on my face.

Grandma had a sharp tongue and a crackerjack sense of humour. She had a quick and witty comeback for anything you said to her and had a peculiar nickname for those she loved and cared for the most. I will never forget the mischievous twinkle in her eye as she referred to me as “Doughhead,” “Knothead” or “Freddy.”

With her salt-and-pepper hair, Grandma was the epitome of the typical, sweet grey-haired granny, but this appearance was deceiving to those who didn’t know her well. Grandma was captivated by the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and thought that the wrestler Bret Hart was the sexiest man alive. She was an avid watcher of the TV game show Wheel of Fortune, loved listening to the rock group Black Sabbath, admired Harley-Davidson motorcycles and dreamed of owning a pet boa constrictor. When that dream was shattered, she opted for a cat named Tommy and a pet spider. She loved her “baby” Tommy and took him for a walk every day. Sporting a leash, Tommy walked beside her obediently and listened attentively as she spoke to him about this and that. Thank goodness she was unable to find a leash for her pet spider. I can just imagine how that would have looked as she walked down Main Street with her pet spider and her cat Tommy on leashes. The ruckus that would have created as the local townsfolk tried to wrap their heads around what they were seeing! She would have done it, too, just to get people talking. That was my grandma and her twisted sense of humour.

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Grandma Norah with Tara's on, Chris, in 1995
Courtesy of Tara Johnson Barnes

A lasting legacy

Grandma Norah passed away on October 1, 2004, just shy of her 76th birthday. To me, she was perfect; there’s nothing about her I would have changed. She loved everyone equally and gave selflessly of herself. She had a pure heart and a sparkling smile that lit up any room the moment she walked into it. She was one of a kind and nobody will ever come close to replacing her.

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Originally Published in Our Canada

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