The most important woman in my life, other than my mom and my daughters.
The most important blood relative, other than my parents and my brother.
Now, that’s a rather stern picture of Pauline Elizabeth Delong Case. Truth be told, I can’t say I ever remember her looking like that. I’m sure she had her moments, and undoubtedly my granddad got a few of those looks.
But the deeply embedded resonance of my grandmother – ‘Gommer’, as we called her – is joy.
Laughter, always. Encouragement and laughter; Gomer was the kind of person you just wanted to be around.
I did, anyway. Growing up close to family, the only girl in a gaggle of boy cousins, she was home base for me. My refuge. She loved me, unconditionally – she proved it with Oreos in cookie jars and a door that was always open.
We lived just up the road, until I was 13. My aunt and uncle and two cousins lived in between us; Gom’s house was a quick coast on my bike down the hill. Close enough for me to hear her car crunch the gravel as she turned into her driveway at 11:20 at night, finishing her shift at Polk Center where she cared for those who were institutionalized due to mental health issues. I would stay up late, reading under the covers with a flashlight, waiting for my grandma to cruise through the Pennsylvania night air.
There was something unique and wonderful about growing up so tightly knit. I wonder, now, how all the adults felt about it – but as a child, I thought it was wonderful.
We’d hang out on Gom’s porch, watching the neighbors come home, talking about anything and everything. There was always a pot of coffee on and she was always good for conversation.
|Gom and Uncle Dave|
I think that’s what I remember most; that there was never a time when Gommer wasn’t present. She never shooed anyone away. She never had a book she’d rather read, never needed ‘alone time’. I do recall that she loved watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ most weeknights and ‘Hee Haw’ on the weekends, and in her later years she loved ‘Ellen’.
She’d sing, “One day at a tiimmmmeee, sweet Jesus…”
‘Because He Lives’ touched her deeply; we’d sing in harmony.
She would scratch my back, somehow knowing that it was my love language.
She said, “Bethie, you’re my favorite granddaughter”, and she said the word like “fav – or – RIGHT”, which I always found precious and slightly peculiar.
I was her favorite granddaughter. I was deeply loved by her, and I never doubted it. That’s a rare thing, I know; to be absolutely sure of an unconditional love. It drenched me, in my early years; and after Lonnie and I moved to Ohio and we could make the two-hour trip to see her, I tasted and saw that love in action with my kids.
|Gom and I, with Sarah, Haley (my cousin’s eldest), and Shannon|