By the time Becky's daughter Emma was born, her mother, Sheila, had already had the aneurism that left her disabled. Emma never had a chance to contend with Sheila the Force of Nature whose petite frame and Audrey Hepburn-style belied a giant and absolute fierceness--a fierceness for culture, for intelligent conversation, for social justice, for beauty, for an end to hypocrisy, for travel and education and a chance for her children to get ahead in this life.
Also, it must be said, she could be a flirt. She was beautiful and stylish and enjoyed the company of men who appreciated those qualities.
I was a little afraid of Sheila when Becky and I were younger, but then I was afraid of lots of mothers in those days now that I think about it. Who knows why? (Actually, being a mother who scares children--your own and other people's-- is an awesome life-skill. I often wish I'd had the art of it in me.)
Anyway. I asked Becky once (we were lying on the grass in Uncle Bud's Park, looking up at the sky) if her mother liked me. "Not really," she said. "Why?" I asked. "She doesn't think you're good enough for me," Becky said.
But then one day when Becky and I were in high school, Sheila DID like me. And I remember when that happened, too. I could feel her watching me in the Brown family's front room with a slight, approving smile on her face. There were lots of people there, and somehow I managed to talk to people and behave with a certain amount of grace. And after that evening, she told Becky that I had turned into a grownup with excellent manners. It was one of the loveliest compliments I've ever received.
Of course once you REALLY grow up, you're not afraid of the adults in your life anymore. You realize they're just people like you. And I became very, very fond of Sheila--the old Sheila and the new one, too, who sometimes calls me, even though those calls are so difficult for her to make.
I love your grandmother, Emma. I truly, truly do.