I knew my grandma well, for a grandkid, which means, of course, I knew that my grandmother loved me, made killer root beer floats, and made me special ballerina sandwitches any time I asked, ( wonder white bread, peanut butter, lettuce, and hidden valley ranch powdered seasoning, of course, that is what ballerinas eat!!!)
I did not know much about my grandma at all.
I knew she was a nurse, that she grew up on a farm in Ponca, that she wanted to be a red cross nurse when she was five years old.
I knew she had survived cancer, once, before I was ever born, and twenty one years after I was born, it tore her from her living family once more.
What I did not know about grandmother is a thousand times greater that the small pieces that I can say, though the tiny snippets I had were enough to make me love her completely.
I did not know that my grandmother was the Charge nurse on the medical floor at the same hospital I work at now. (I knew she worked there, but not that she was charge)
I did not know that my grandma used to work holidays and weekends, because young nurses she worked with had families to be with (this was when my grandmother was older, her kids had left home, her husband had passed... )
I did not know how much it meant when the whole nursing community of sioux city respected her. And they did.
When I did my first clinical rotation, my instructor, Judy Turner, was talking about her many years at that hospital. I took a chance, and told her, "My Gramdma worked here when it was St. Joes" Judy looked at me, doubtful, "what was her name?" I told her, "Marion Johnson" and Judy threw her head back, shook it back and forth, and said to me the only words I needed to ever hear about my Grandma, "What a lady..." she said, with a dramatic voice of reminisscence.
I almost cried.
That sums it up about my grandma. WHAT A LADY, and that she was. Professional, wonderful, so full of.... Grandma Johnson-ness.
One thing I did know though, from the time that I was young... seven, I guess, was that my grandmother was passionate about Diabetes.
She was the first "Diabetes Educator" in Sioux City. She had left Mercy to help her husband at Smith Villa grocery that he owned, back in the day when a corner grocer could make a buck, and she came back when he died. She was asked back, to start a diabetes education department.
I remember her talking to my mother, excitedly, about how they used oranges to teach people to give shots. She was sitting with my mother teaching her, and my mother, several times, drew water into an insulin syringe, and injected it into an orange. I was not too interested, I turned to watch Hee Haw. But, my Grandma, for one reason or another wanted my mom to know how to do this, she was smiling though, excited.
There was no diabetes in our family. Type one or Two... But my Grandma was teaching.
She took me to her office once. I remember walking through a parking lot. My grandma in her white dress, her white stockings, her white hat, and me.... We passed a sign that only recenty put up. It said, "Marian Health Center" They had been St Joes only weeks before.. I looked at my grandmother, her name being Marion, I gasped, "Grandma!!!! They spelled your name wrong!!!"
"Dont tell anyone, they'd feel bad" she said. She held my hand and walked me into her work where there were tall filing cabinets, desks, and lots of doctors office type of things.
When Nolan was first diagnosed, the very first image that came to my mind was that of my grandmother showing my mother how to inject into an orange.
I had a life changing diagnosis on my hands...
and still I felt strangely protected.