Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gladys Marie Taylor Bruffy - 3/20/1920 - 4/25/2017

My grandmother passed away yesterday morning. She was 97 years old.

She lived in California and since I am in Virginia, we did not get to know one another as well as I would have liked.

I last saw her around 1988. She and my grandfather came to Virginia to visit. My husband and I had finished building our house; I do remember that. My grandmother thought we had made a nice home and I remember how much she liked my husband.

Otherwise, our visits consisted of one around 1972, another about 1978, and another in 1981. Those are the times she and my grandfather came here. In 1976, my parents drove us out to California and I saw her then, too. But those were short visits, with family always around. I never spent much alone time with her.

I know she loved to cook. I have her secret recipe for a delightful chocolatey dish that she called chocolate lush, but otherwise her cooking skills are not mine. She liked to fish, hunt mushrooms, and camp before she became too old to find that enjoyable. She loved my grandfather, and he played guitar and she would sing with him. After my grandfather passed away, she read a lot. She once told me she read over 100 books a year.

For years, we spoke on the phone frequently until her hearing became bad, and then she started thinking I was her cleaning lady calling to change the schedule because she couldn't hear what I was saying. I remembering screaming into the phone: "It's your granddaughter in Virginia."  I switched to letters, but they were one-way; she did not write back though for a while I did receive a Christmas card. By that time she was in her early 80s and having health problems, specifically some kind of pancreatitis. I'm sure she had other health concerns as well.

Her last years were spent in a nursing home and she had dementia of some kind. I still wrote her, sending cards and short letters in large type that I hoped either she could see or someone would read to her. The letters never said much - we were well, my husband had been promoted, I was still writing or not, I'd had a surgery - whatever little newsy thing I thought might interest her. I never knew until today if she actually received them - a cousin sent me a Facebook note telling me she had kept them all. That makes me kind of sad and glad at the same time. I hope they brought her some comfort, to know that I thought of her, if she knew who I was still.

Regrets are strange creatures. I do regret that I did not know my father's parents as well as I would have liked. I knew both of them more through letters and phone calls than via personal contact. As anyone who has friends only through Facebook or email these days knows, that is a different relationship than the one in which you receive hugs and kisses. Not a bad relationship, but different.

My grandparents had other grandchildren out in California who, I am sure, knew them well. My grandmother outlived three of her four children, with my father being the last one still alive. Her son's son took over her care when he passed away and I know he and his wife were close to her. He, I know, could write a better post about her life than I.

Before I wrote this, I sifted through old photos, hoping I had a picture of her as I remember her, but I do not. I have only photos of her in her 80s and 90s, and I never saw her as that age. I remember her as she looked about the age I am now, I think, with graying hair and a few wrinkles.

My father, my grandmother, and my brother. I think this
photo was taken about three years ago, but I am not sure.
Death is a strange thing. I think we don't really deal with it well in this country - we think people should live forever. That kind of thinking does a disservice to the reality of being human, but that is where we are.

My grandfather wrote several poems. I think I shall reprint one of his favorites here, because my grandparents came from West Virginia before they moved west in 1964. They were happy in California, but my grandfather, at least, called the Blue Ridge home. Since they are together now, it seems right to me to share this.

Take me back to Shenandoahwhere the wild red roses grow.
To my home below the Blue Ridge
With old friends I used to know.

I hear the sound of children laughing
And they sound so bright and gay.
Like the tinkle of the banjo
in the valley, far away.

I hear the sound of cattle lowing
high up on a hill. And in the valley
far below calls a whippoorwill.

How I long for Shenandoah
where magnolia blossoms blow
To my home below the Blue Ridge
And old friends I used to know.

So bury me deep in the valley
where the old James River flows.
Close to my home in the Blue Ride
and old friends I used to know.

By Joe Bruffey


  1. I'm very sorry for your loss. Grandmas are special people. I too did not know my father's mother very well. ( not even as much as you did your paternal grandmother) I was very close to my mother's mother. She died at the age of 59 I was about 12. She left me with a love of the stars and the sounds of a country night. She was a fabulous cook and I inherited her recipes although few in number. I know she knew you loved her though far away....and now if you speak she'll hear you perfectly for angels have great listening skills. ((Hugs))

  2. I am sorry for your loss. But I was touched to learn she kept your letters. You're a writer, so it's lovely and fitting that your words reached her through the distance and dementia.


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