Received the call tonight I’ve been expecting for 15 years: At 103, Grandma Hastings has passed away. My last remaining grandparent, Vada was born in Castena, Iowa more than a century ago, 100 years before my son. A schoolteacher who lived through the Great Depression, the popularization of cars, radio, television, the internet, two world wars, men walking on the moon, and disco, Vada was the mother of seven children, steadfastly unreligious and politically neutral, a good samaritan, a lifelong gardener, a masterful embroiderer, famous for Sunday waffles and the most amazing rhubarb pie you ever tasted (always homegrown and lovingly baked). Wife of a boxer and carpenter, never allowed to get a driver’s license or own a pet, unflinching in the face of adversity, never had a harsh word for anyone. In retrospect, she was a Classic American Grandmother, though I’ve never identified her that way before. She was just plain old Grandma to us.
Vada stayed healthy and alert until her late 90s. Only in recent years did she become bedridden, and begin to lose her eyesight and hearing. Every year for the last two decades, the refrain has been “Better come to Grandma’s birthday – it could be her last.” But it never was. She never seemed to get sick, never suffered any of the ailments common to such advanced age. She just. Slowed. Down. And eventually, inevitably, faded to zero, winked out, as all humans do, in one way or another.
I did a video interview with her in 2000. Now wanting to dig that up, hear her once again reflecting on her amazing century. May we all have such a ride.