Melody's cousin called the other morning and gave us the sad news that their Grandma Irene had passed away, just four months shy of her 100th birthday. When I met her in the late 1990's she was strong of will and wisdom, and I still saw that part of her when we last visited in November, 2013. During all those years, she always made sure that you saw her smiling and that you felt included.
Others are more qualified to relate Irene's background, but in a nutshell, she was born in Nebraska, married Keith Winkle in 1935, and had three children (Melody's dad Lyle, Frances, and Neal).
Irene lived a good portion of her life in the Rockwood retirement community in Spokane, most of it on the top floor. She did sewing for many of the other residents up until not too many years ago. At one point she felt she needed to hide her scissors because the staff felt it would be safer if she didn't have them lying around, but admitted (with a twinkle in her eye) that she sometimes forgot where she hid them.
There was certainly nothing wrong with Irene's vision. Every day we were there, she would stare at my t-shirt (often from across the table) with interest, wondering what was on it. Sometimes she would seem to be gazing towards the dining hall windows, then would pipe up pointing out a small thing that caught her eye; we would have to squint to see the bird or other thing that she saw.
Irene was always filled with hospitality. Her room was always the gathering spot while were visiting, and she would proudly show off new acquisitions, such as additions to her paper wasp nest collection. One time we were in her room and she suddenly dropped to her hands and knees, rooting underneath her television until she found a garden gnome that she was determined that we have (it lives right outside our front door). Another night we were chatting in her room, then she abruptly said that she knew we were getting tired, but everyone assured her we were doing fine. After a beat, she said, "Someone is getting tired", which was the cue to take our leave and let her rest.
I felt extremely welcome and at ease around Irene. She seemed genuinely excited to meet my sons and always asked about them and what they were up to. While it pales in comparison to Melody and her family's loss, I feel a part of my life is gone, one that I'll treasure in my memories.