Jennie Audrey Butridge
July 23, 1886 - January 16, 1969
Nana fought against going to a hospital because she believed that if she ever went in, she would never come out. She was right. Because grandfather had an Illinois Central pension, nana went to the IC hospital in Hyde Park and there, on January 16th, she died. And, like grandfather, she was waked at the Donnellan funeral home and buried beside him in the Chapel Hill Gardens Cemetery.
I can still remember grandmother leaning against the dresser in her room and crying. I asked her why she cried and she said because she was afraid to die. I must have been ten years old. Through the years she would always tell me to make sure to visit her grave and leave her a "posy." It was a promise made before the currents of life pulled me away from Chicago and to first the West Coast and then the East.
I am too far away to bring her the posies that she wanted and so I bring them here, to a place she never could have imagined, but a place she would have loved.
Grandmother was very grateful to live in the modern days of TV dinners. When she died, we found the bottom drawer of the refrigerator filled with empty TV dinner pans. That I could understand, being a packrat, because they might come in handy someday. What I never understood was why we found all the lids as well.
The family was very grateful that she loved TV dinners. Grandmother was a really bad cook. I remember a cake she cooked from scratch that she lifted from the pan and bent back and forth. If it had been round, it would have bounced. The one good receipe she had was for bread pudding. I never thought to ask her for that receipe because she was always the one who made it. One of her sisters wrote it down for me at grandmother's funeral. I am so very grateful.
Grandmother was a fighter. She believed that you dug in and did whatever it was necessary to do. Excuses could make you more virtuous while you did whatever it was, but excuses weren't what you used to avoid it. I never doubted for an instant that she loved me with all that strength and all that energy. I loved her, too.
Nana had been a nurse and she was always the one they called when someone hurt themselves or there was an illness on the block. She was the one who organized people to collect money for children when the Polio epidemic hit. She was the one to call City Hall when there was a neighborhood problem. Grandmother wouldn't have known how to step back from someone who needed help.
If I am, indeed, made up of qualities from all of my family, I am very glad that nana was there to add to the mix.
I remember sitting on the front porch while nana showed me toys to make by tearing up newspapers. While she did this, she would talk to me about the values that a child and an adult must have. This is where I learned that "two wrongs don't make a right" and "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar." She walked me to school until the school asked her to let me walk alone. And I'm sure she missed me very much. I came home for soup and sandwich every day until finally it was decided I was big enough to eat lunch at school. I know that separation was hard on nana. If she could have kept me home from school and with her every moment, she would have done it with joy.
I graduated in the top 2 of my grammar school class for grades and was tops for absenteeism. Whenever I wanted to stay home, grandmother would support me. I would sneak out early in the morning to stand barefoot in the snow until I would start to shiver, then hurry in to sit in front of the hot air vent until I began to sweat. It was usually good enough to get grandmother to support my staying home.
Sick days were wonderful days. Nana would enscounce me on the sofa so that I could be part of the family life and bring me Seven-up, potato chips and vanilla ice cream. I'm sure there were theories about why this diet would make me well, but I probably didn't ask too many questions.
I thought she was beautiful every day of her life, and I wasn't the only one to think so. Anyone who knew her when she was young always spoke of her beauty. Grandmother worked as an accountant while she lived in St. Louis with the Dribben family. On grandmother's way to work, she passed a firehouse and she loved to tell how the firemen would line up at the time she was due to pass and just stand there, politely, as she walked by. She loved to tell her story and I loved to listen.
sitting on the floor and leaning against her as she talked. I miss the sound of her
singing those sad, sad songs as she sang and cried and ironed. I miss her lap and her
laughter and her love. Sometimes while I dream I can hear her voice
again - dreams and memories intermixing for a too short, precious moment. I love you,
Nana, and I hope that that love will take the place of the posies you wanted that
I can't bring.