My grandmother (gramma) died on this day two months ago. I miss her so much every day. Generally there is a dull ache I carry around inside, but some moments are excruciatingly painful. When you lose someone you love, you can be reminded of them in the most random ways.

Yesterday as I was making pizzas for my Oscar party, I remembered the first time I made whole wheat pizza dough. For some reason it just wasn’t turning out the way it does when I use regular white flour. It was too liquid. So I called my gramma. “Gramma will know!” I asked her if I should just keep adding more flour until it got to the right consistency, and she said yes. I said, “But won’t there be too much flour in the dough?” and she responded, “Dough is pretty much all flour anyway.”

When that memory popped into my head yesterday, I began to cry.

Gramma was eighty-six years old and had been in the hospital just over a month when she died. While she was old, and while things were bad at the very end, it doesn’t make it any easier. As Jamaica Kincaid wrote, “The inevitable is no less a shock just because it’s inevitable.”

She was an awesome gramma. She was strong and fiesty and independent, and she beared a lot. My grandfather died twenty years ago, and my gramma lived all this time on her own, fending for herself for the most part until an aging and ailing body required her to depend on others more than suited her pride.

She loved to laugh and was always game for whatever zany things I would ask of her—some of my favourite photos of her: gramma with a lampshade on her head, gramma wearing my cousin’s skateboarding helmet, gramma in the driver’s seat of a vintage car wearing my sunglasses, gramma donning the dog’s reindeer antlers, gramma wearing a Power Rangers walkie-talkie headset, gramma posing with a nearly naked man at Buskerfest….

She loved her children and her grandchildren. She always told me she loved me and that she was proud of me. Now that she’s gone, I have no one to say that they’re proud of me.

To honour my gramma, I am going to recount my favourite conversation I had with her. Please indulge me.

We were driving in the car and we passed a store or business of some sort that had closed down; she expressed surprise that it was gone:

Gramma: That place has been there for donkeys’ years.

Me: Donkey’s ears?

Gramma: Donkey’s years.

Me: Donkey’s years?

Gramma: Yeah.

Me: Donkey’s years? What does that mean?

Gramma: Oh, it’s an old British saying. It means a long time.

Me: Yeah, but why does it mean that?

Gramma: I don’t know; it’s just the saying.

Me: Are you sure it’s not donkey’s ears? Cuz donkeys have pretty long ears.

Gramma: No, it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But why? Do donkeys live a long time?

Gramma: I guess so.

Me: What about turtles? Or sharks? They live a long time. Probably longer than donkeys. Why isn’t it “turtles’ years”?

Gramma: Because it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But how long do donkeys live?

Gramma: A good long time!

I love you, Gramma. You are missed every day.

(Note: In my research to discover if it is donkey’s or donkeys’, I found this link:, which explains that I was in fact right! It seems that the earliest incarnation of the term was donkey’s ears, and rhyming slang (—which makes no sense to me whatsoever, despite my British blood—turned it into donkey’s years. But had I discovered this when my gramma was still alive, I wouldn’t have told her.)


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. So moving. I only met her once but I feel like I knew her through you. She was a great lady!

    (p.s. I’m proud of you!)

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