Saturday, February 23, 2008

Isabel Noble 1923—2008

A few years ago I asked my readers to list their five favorite things, with an emphasis on these being simple things, the kinds of things that are so small as to be almost overlooked.

My grandmother, Isabel, wrote these:

  1. The smell of Coffee in the morning.
  2. A piece of toast with blackberry jam to go with the coffee.
  3. Your dear husband of 59 years sitting across the breakfast table [my grandpa].
  4. Looking out the window at the spring blooms or the fall colors or a newly fresh snow.
  5. Being fortunate to have lived 82 years and to have enjoyed so many pleasures.

My Granny loved the simple things in life, the little things, and this list came as no surprise to me at the time. After all, these were things about which she often wrote to me, and I to her. We would both exclaim about how wonderful the smell of Autumn was, and how the snow looked so pretty, and how uplifting it was to see the signs of spring, at last. But now, looking at her list of five things, it is like talking with her again. It is a comfort to think of her drinking coffee, eating toast with blackberry jam, sitting with my Grandpa in their New Jersey apartment. And these five simple things again take on new meaning as they are now a fragment of my Granny, now that she's gone.


My Granny passed away last week, last Saturday, after spending a month in and out of hospital fighting respiratory failure. She had smoked during her whole life, pretty much, and even though she quit in her 80's, the smoke caught up with her. The last few years found her never far from her oxygen machine or her nebulizer, and she was finding it hard to breathe and needing to sleep more and more. But even though things were rough, Granny always seemed to see the positive, urging her grandchildren to live "one day at a time", and finding joy in visits with loved ones, as well as watching old musicals from her youth, keeping up with entertainment news, doing the crossword on Sundays, and of course writing emails.

I must admit that writing this is quite odd. It has been a week since she was alive, and to me, her death hasn't really become reality yet. To write about someone in past tense when your brain still believes them to be as alive as they were a month ago, well, it's an odd sensation. I feel like I could still send her an email and she would receive it, and write back with her gracious, yet peppy style.

It's like my aunt said: "We're all feeling a real void in our lives now."


My Granny, to those of you who have read this blog over the years, was a familiar name in the comments box. She was computer savvy and loved reading my blog, and writing comments. Although she took umbrage with some of the swear words we "young people" use, she still kept reading, and encouraging me to write. When I came home last year to take some time off, she called me up one day, and said,

"Now that you have all this time, you should start writing a novel!" Although I knew that writing a novel was one of the last things I needed to do right then, I smiled and said, "Yes, maybe, Granny!" And no doubt I tempered it by saying, "Well, if I do write a novel one day, I'm definitely going to dedicate it to you!" This was an exchange we had more than once over the years.

The next day she called back. "You know, I was thinking, and I don't want you to feel pressured to write a novel, just because I said to."

"Oh, well, thanks, Granny... I didn't really feel pressure, but... thanks for thinking about me!"

"Well, I just thought, you're home to rest, you should do whatever makes you happy, you know? No pressure."

Both Granny and Grandpa have been such wonderful patrons of mine over the years, telling me with grandparental pride how much my writing impressed them, and how certain they were that I will one day be a published author. And who knows? Perhaps one day I will be. When I am, I know to whom I'll be dedicating my first book!

"To Isabel Noble, who always said I should write this novel."


Granny, I'm going to miss you so much. Huminbean won't be the same without you—thank you for being part of it.

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