In memory of Ruth Renaut, 11/19/1926 – 4/23/2007

My grandmother died last night. She had not been well for a while, and they couldn’t really figure out what was wrong.

I think she was ready to go. She had been in a rehabilitation center for a while, and then staying with my dad. She hasn’t been able to walk for months, and she wasn’t responding in any long-term sense to the treatment.

I last saw her the weekend before last. She didn’t really want company, but I went anyway, and I’m glad I did. Our last conversation wasn’t very good. She was upset, and wasn’t terribly pleasant. I’m sad that the last time we talked ended with her upset with me, but I know she didn’t really mean it. We’ve always had a good relationship. I used to spend the night with her and my grandfather when I was very little. She loves to tell the story of how I asked for toasted cheese one night for dinner. She cooked me a grilled cheese. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but in our house when I was little, “toasted cheese” was really just a piece of bread with sliced cheese stuck in the toaster oven until the cheese melted and the bread browned a little bit. I’m not sure I’d ever had a grilled cheese at that point, and there was NO WAY I was eating it. I was a pretty picky eater until sometime in high school. My grandfather apparently made me sit in my chair for quite some time, staring at the grilled cheese.

“You asked your grandmother for this, and now you’re going to eat it.” He said.

“No.” I said. Allegedly. I was probably three years old. I deny this ever happened. I certainly don’t remember it.

I out-waited him, though. She never told me how the story ended, except that I never did eat the grilled cheese. It’s too bad – I probably would have liked it.

In college, I lived about 20 minutes from her, and I used to take her to the grocery store a few times a month. She never drove, and my grandfather died in 1986. Kind of amazing that she lived in the suburbs of Baltimore for 20 years without a driver in the house.

Anyway, I knew exactly where everything she ever bought was in the Pikesville Giant. She would always buy me a sandwich for lunch, and serve something for dessert. Often it was Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Occasionally it was something she made. She was a great cook, and her specialty was old-fashioned New England desserts. Her Christmas cookies were fantastic, too, but I think that may be partly nostalgia.

So, my recommendation to all of you is to go and spend time with the people you care about. Some of them may be difficult sometimes, as I know my grandmother could be. But it’s funny how quickly you can forget the little difficulties.

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