Having lost so many people in my life, I had always hoped to marry into a big family. I did just that. And not just a big family, but a an incredible one. And none more incredible than Elsie Bettencourt. . . the grandmother to my wife, and great grandmother to my kids. Whenever I'd see Elsie (the Elsie of my daughter's name Elsie-Jane), she'd greet me with a small laugh and smile as though she were saying. . "I get to see you again?". She was as sharp as anyone could be. At 94, the past few years have brought difficulties in getting sick, surgeries, falls, etc. But each and every time, she's faced them with the strength that she faced her entire life.
She lost her mother when she was in the 8th grade, and with a father at work to provide for the family, Elsie took over the role of mother in her family taking care of her father and two younger sisters . She dropped out of school to take on that full time job. Her life has been about family, hard work and doing whatever needs to be done. No excuses, no complaining, just doing it. It's incredible that this woman only had an 8th grade education, because when you talked with her, you felt she knew the answers to everything.
We all gathered together yesterday afternoon to celebrate another 90 year old birthday in the family . Elsie came out for it as well.
I didn't see Elsie come in, but I saw her sitting in a chair after I had been there for a while. I came around her from behind her and kissed her on her cheek without her seeing me. I then made my way all the way around in front of her and I got that little chuckle and smile again.
I told her how great she looked, and she gave me a little wave away and a "pffff" sound because she could never take a compliment. But she did. .. she looked beautiful. Dressed up for the party in a leopard print jacket, hair done and ready to be with the family.
I know she's not my "blood" grandmother, but she surely has always made me feel as though I was one of her grandsons.
Today, my wife called to let me know that she had passed away. In those 12 short hours since I last kissed her cheek, I will no longer have a chance to see that little smirk and laugh. I will certainly miss this incredible woman.