The Grandmother I Met But Never Knew

I wish I’d been able to know her.

Chelsea Nelthropp
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readOct 10, 2023


Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash

Growing up, I never knew my father’s mother, whom I simply referred to as grandma. I talked to her, saw her, and had family dinners with her, but I never knew her. It wasn’t my fault, nor was it hers. My grandma had a stroke several years before I was born, altering her personality and memory forever.

After the stroke, my grandma’s short-term memory was pretty much gone. She met me and my twin brother over and over, but she could never remember exactly who we were or our names. But she never forgot her husband, whom I called (and still call) granddad.

The love between my grandma and granddad was palpable. My granddad would wheel my grandma across the house, as the stroke had affected her ability to walk. He ensured she always had the best seat during parties and was surrounded by people. She was never forgotten in a distant corner.

He would anticipate her every need before she knew she needed it, giving her a drink of water or salting her food just so. He would let her say the prayer before we ate — he knew how much she enjoyed it. She would cheerfully shout, “God bless us everyone. Amen!” before we commenced our family dinners.

My grandma felt the same way and adored my granddad. Even though her short-term memory was hazy at best, her long-term memories, including how she met my granddad, were fondly sealed in her memory. She would tell me the story of how they met almost every time I saw her. But, I didn’t mind.

Her eyes would light up, and she would say excitedly, “I met Hardy (my granddad’s nickname, as he was born during the Great Depression) one day while I was skiing at Mount Hood with my friends. I could’ve sworn he was one of my close friends, so I went over and planted a big kiss on his cheek. I was surprised when I realized it wasn’t my friend at all, but Hardy. At first, I was embarrassed, but he talked to me and made me feel comfortable. He had the strangest accent, and I had to get to know him better.”

My granddad is from St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands, a small island in the Caribbean. He has a “Crucian” accent, which to the untrained ear may sound similar to Jamaican. My grandma was from Oregon, with the most neutral and…