Mr. Fixit’s grandmother died on Sunday morning. We were expecting the news. She had been very sick for several days, and it was a testament to her strength that she survived as long as she did. But it was still a shock. It seems incredible that the world exists without her in it.
She lived her whole life in the tiny village of Chesterville, Ontario. She had the strongest sense of place of anyone I knew. She knew her place in the world – right there at the center of her village, just down the street from the cafe she had always frequented, and close to her lifelong friends and neighbours. She grew up in a world where you knew everyone around you and there were no secrets. Her village grounded her and gave her strength. She had definite opinions about the way the world was supposed to be, and she didn’t mind telling you when you were doing something that violated the World According to Betty.
I remember once when Mr. Fixit’s family was here for a big family dinner – I think it was Thanksgiving. After dinner I made Mr. Fixit get down my giant pot so I could start simmering turkey stock. His grandmother, always curious, watched with interest. She approved of the onions and carrots I threw into the broth, but when I started to scrape leftover gravy into the pot she reached out a shaking, wrinkled hand to stop me. THIS was not the way things were done in Chesterville. I explained that the gravy, which after all is just turkey drippings, water and flour, added flavour and colour to the turkey stock. Mr. Fixit’s mother, bless her heart, backed me up. The wrinkled hand was removed and I was allowed to proceed with my crazy soup-making technique while Mr. Fixit’s grandmother walked off, exclaiming, “Flour gravy in soup…I NEVER!” Clearly I had rocked her world and shattered her confidence in my cooking. I wondered if she would ever stop talking about her grandson’s crazy wife who put gravy in the soup.
Six months later, we were again at a big family dinner. This time it was Easter at Mr. Fixit’s parents’ house. After dinner, Mr. Fixit’s brother started making soup with the turkey carcass. His grandmother tottered over, and with the voice of authority and not a hint of irony, declared, “Did you know you can put flour gravy in your soup? It adds flavour and colour.”
Rest in peace, Betty. The world is a lesser place for your absence, but you leave a legacy of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are strong, opinionated, and know the value of connection to family and friends. We will miss you terribly but we are grateful to have known you. You added flavour and colour to our lives.