Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

To Grandma, with love

By Steph Tahtinen

By STEPH TAHTINEN

Mt. Pleasant News

My grandma was the embodiment of sisu. It’s a Finnish term that doesn’t really have an English equivalent. I looked it up in a Finnish-English dictionary once and it translated as “intestinal fortitude.” Grandpa has a coffee cup that defines it as “tenacity of purpose.”

It basically means that when life got tough, Grandma got tougher.

Grandma was an inspiring woman who showed me to never give up. Never stop fighting. Never stop smiling.

Around 17 years ago, Grandma was diagnosed with COPD and told that she only had a few months to live. I didn’t find this out until a few years ago; it’s not exactly something you tell an eight-year-old. But even though her prospects were bleak, Grandma wasn’t going to adhere to any timeline imposed on her by the doctors.

She was never one to let someone else keep her from something she wanted to do. As a three-year-old (who couldn’t say the letter “s”), Grandma once said to a neighbor who told her to not swing so high, “I’m going to ‘wing and I’m going to ‘wing and I’m not going to ‘top!”

Grandma kept swinging, fighting time as she toted around an oxygen tank for 17 years. She saw her grandchildren grow up. She saw her eldest granddaughter walk down the aisle. She saw her youngest grandson attend prom and start to drive.

The fight wasn’t easy. Over the years she had several stays in the hospital with pneumonia. Each time there was this unspoken fear in the air, but whether it was sisu, determination or just plain stubbornness, Grandma always won these battles. She bounced back.

Eventually, though, she had to stop swinging. The years of fighting took their toll and the 17-year extension that was granted ran out. In the early morning hours of Nov. 27, Grandma’s long fight was over.

When I think of my grandma, I think of strength. This may be counter-intuitive, because as I grew up, I watched her grow weaker with time. But although she was weak physically and her body was slowly shutting down, her personality and love of life remained.

She was always there to greet you with a smile and a wave. Even if you had spent all day in the same house as her, if you glanced up across the living room and caught her eye, she’d grin and wave at you from her chair in the corner. Closing my eyes, I can still see her.

Grandma also loved to sing, and she did it with passion and gusto. We’d often sit around the table playing a game of Scrabble, and Grandma would randomly belt out a line from the song that was playing on the radio as we studied our letter trays.

While “Amazing Grace” was being sung at the funeral, Grandpa leaned over to Mom and I heard him whisper, “Can’t you hear Ma singing?” What little control I had over my emotions was lost at that point.

As the years went by, I noticed similarities between Grandma and Mom — their appearance, their mannerisms, a bit of their personalities. I noticed Mom becoming more and more like Grandma. At the same time, I was becoming more and more like Mom. So, a few years ago I came to the conclusion that some day I’ll be turning into Grandma.

I hope so. It is quite a legacy to live up to, but nothing would make me more proud than to be as strong and wonderful a woman as she was.

Rest in peace, Muumuu. I’ll see you in my memories.