Louise Roberta Crandall (1926-2016)
Beloved mother, grandmother, wife. Keeper of secrets. Wielder of hair brushes, whose bristles are were surprisingly sharp when battered against a child’s soft flesh. A child once, herself, we’re told, though none of us can imagine it. As a child, she was rebellious, generous, funny, or so the legend goes. She wore lopsided pigtails, always loose; climbed trees; caught frogs by the stream and set them loose in the boys’ desks at school. Eloped at sixteen—not a shotgun wedding. Of her three children, one is expected to attend the funeral. One is in California. One is gone. She leaves behind a husband, Grandpa John—not the one from the not shotgun wedding. That one, the father of the child who’s gone, is gone, now, too. Liver failure. Grandpa John loves her, he tells us. “When she’d laugh,” he says, “her nose would wrinkle like this,” and he twists his nose up on one side. “Her eyes turned into slivers and tears slithered out of the corners. That’s how hard she’d laugh sometimes.” “Yes,” our mom agrees. “I remember that too,” but her face betrays the lie. She rubs her fingers along the scar on her forehead when she thinks we’re not looking, but we are, and Grandpa John is too. When Grandma Louise was a young grandmother, she took us out for ice cream once. But first, she had some errands to run. She got lost along the way. She drove and drove in circles, and Theresa, who was six, got sick all over the back seat. Grandma Louise pulled the car over and hauled Theresa out of the booster, slapped her so hard the entire left side of her face turned red. She made us stand on the side of the road, not talking, as she cleaned up the vomit, then shooed us back into the car and told us, “No ice cream. This is punishment. You are being punished.” Grandpa John gave us a handful of bills that evening when the ice cream truck’s tinny tune filled the air. Grandma Louise didn’t argue, just asked us to pick up a dilly bar for her too. She was like that sometimes. Confusing. Or maybe confused. Maybe she didn’t know any more than we did about how to make it all okay. Services will be held at Trinity Church this Monday. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to Noble Cross, the battered women’s shelter on Fifth.