Love and Olive Oil

On life, death, and fishing.

Grandma Elaine

It’s been a tough few weeks for me. I’ve been in catch-up mode ever since we got back from Europe, slowly making a dent in my backlog of design work, while at the same time trying to sift through and edit and whittle down my thousands of photos from Paris and Barcelona, trying to get my posts finished and scheduled before my next trip. How are you supposed to plan for one trip when your mind (and heart) are still racing from the last one?

That alone was almost more than I could handle.

Then I got the news that my grandmother, Elaine, suffered a stroke this past weekend. She hadn’t been herself in quite some time, incrementally declining since her 90th birthday two years ago. That’s the hardest part of this all, seeing the kindest, warmest, and most welcoming person I’ve ever known slowly turn into just a whisper of her former self.

We knew it was coming. We knew she couldn’t go on for very much longer, and hoped, for her sake and ours, that she’d soon be at peace.

But that doesn’t make it any easier, when the time finally does come.

I knew I wanted to be there. For her. For my mom. I was unable to attend my grandfather’s service 10 years ago because of school and finals and because I was still too young to realize how important it was, to me, to be there. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

But of course, things like this never happen at a convenient time. About a month ago, Taylor and I were invited on a Princess cruise to Alaska. Timing be damned (I was already worried about catching up after Europe), an opportunity like that isn’t something you turn down.

I talked with my mom a lot after it happened, trying to figure out what to do. Despite my willingness to cancel the cruise entirely, my family adamantly insisted that I not miss this cruise, that grandma wouldn’t have wanted me to, and that spending her last few days surrounded by family was vastly more important than being present at a formal service if the timing didn’t work out for me to be there.

And so, with less than 12 hours notice, I changed my flights, apologized profusely to my (amazingly understanding) clients whose projects would be delayed as a result, and hopped a plane to New York where I’d meet up with my parents and sister along with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends to spend whatever last precious days/hours she had by her side. Then I’d fly out on Saturday to meet Taylor in Seattle and set sail for Alaska.

As it turned out, she passed before I got there, which was both a disappointment and a relief at the same time. Now, we’re all just trying to put together the pieces, make arrangements, and do our best to honor the amazing woman she was. A task which, to her credit, involves eating gobs and gobs of ice cream.

Me with my grandparents

My grandparents were travelers. They explored the world in search of the elusive fish they’d never caught before, in Iceland and Russia and South America.

And Alaska.

I’ve had my grandparents on my mind since we started planning this trip, when one of the available port excursions happened to be a “gourmet fishing adventure”. Despite the fact that I am about as outdoorsy as a house cat, I booked it anyway, thinking of Grams and Poppoo (as they were affectionately known) and looking forward to having Taylor experience the same wonder and awe that I had on fishing trips with them as a child. Even though we booked it months ago, the events of late have made me realize how important it is to live life to the fullest, embracing each and every opportunity that comes our way. No matter how inconvenient the timing.

My grandparents had a painting in their home for as long as I can remember. In it was a vast blue sky and sea, dotted with frothy white wave caps, and a small white fishing vessel. Someone (who actually made the addition I do not know) had added a speech bubble emanating from the boat.

“Ernest my dear [Ernest being my grandfather], I dare say I’ve hooked my fifth sailfish!”

It always made me smile, and is one of things I remember most about these two amazing people.

I remember sitting at the dining table in my childhood home on the Roaring Fork River in Colorado, the table strewn with feathers and twine and little bottles of glue, enraptured as my grandfather showed me how to tie flies. Granted, I’m not sure how my scraggly neon pink creation actually resembled any bug in real life, but he made me feel like I’d just created the Mona Lisa of flies.

Shortly thereafter, we stood knee deep in the river, my (leaky) hand-me-down waders slowly filling with the cold rocky mountain water, casting our lines into the pools and eddys where the fish might lie. Despite having more water in my boots than the river itself (or so it seemed), I was in heaven.

I haven’t been fishing since my grandfather passed away, and as I watched my grandmother slowly lose her sense of self and retreat further and further into the depths of her own mind, I couldn’t help but think of those happier times. In the cool Colorado river waters, on the inland waterways of Florida, probably scrunching my nose up at the idea of touching worms (they made me anyway).

I’ve cried my tears, I’ve made my peace, comforted that she’s no longer stuck in that fuzzy place between the woman she used to be and what is surely a better place beyond. I know there will be more tears, but I’m ok. We will all be ok.

World's Coolest Grandma

And for now, I’m going fishing.

Grandma, I’m going to hook a big one for you. Though I’m sure wherever you’re going the waters are teeming with even bigger fish, and Poppoo is waiting for you on a perfect little fishing boat, just like the painting. Maybe this time you’ll let him catch one, too.

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  1. Lindsay, what beautiful thoughts and memories of your times with your grandparents. I am so glad I got to know Elaine, she was quite a gal and you have enlivened her spirit even more so. I know how much you’ll miss her. We send our condolences to all of the Alson family.

  2. So sorry for your profound loss. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

  3. Oh, Lindsay. Reading this tribute to your grandmother brought me to tears!! I’m so sorry for your loss. Your grandmother and grandfather sounded like such amazing folks and you were lucky to have them in your lives. I’m thankful to hear your grandmother is now at peace and with your grandfather now. Have so much fun on the Alaskan cruise and definitely catch a big one for her! xoxo

  4. I am so sorry for your loss, Lindsay. Sending love to your family. <3 

  5. I was in tears reading your words.  They were lovingly beautiful and heartfelt. I too was not with my grandparents when they passed. I miss them more than I had ever missed anyone before.  I hope you are able to at least have a picture of the painting you love from their home. It would be a priceless memory that you are able to continue to cherish throughout time. 

    Prayers, peace and love for you in your time of loss…

  6. A beautiful tribute, Lindsay!  So glad you were here with us.  Safe travels…tight lines!

  7. Beautiful.

  8. May your adventures be as meaningful to you now as they were to your grandparents and as they will be to your offspring. This was so sweet to read, thank you for letting us into your life this way. 

    And I hope you get to keep that painting. 

    Love you, Lindsay. Sending you and Taylor love, hugs and good travel vibes!

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma, it sounds like she was a pretty cool lady. I lost a grandma, another Elaine, last year. It was rough, but being able to celebrate her with all of our family was incredible. 

  10. This was so beautiful Lindsay, you write so well I felt like you took me back in time with your grandparents. Life is so precious and short, go enjoy that cruise!! Miss you and hope to be on the next trip with you :)

  11. What a touching tribute and I wish you and your family peace and healing. I hope you enjoy your trip to Alaska! Thanks for sharing what’s been going on with you :)

  12. Oh, Lindsay. I have goose bumps. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. And what a fabulous way to celebrate her (and your grandfather’s) life, on a fishing excursion in AK! xo

  13. Sorry about your loss,but what a beautiful tribute you pay her here:) 

  14. Lindsay, this is a beautiful tribute. Thank you for giving us a slice into your Grandma’s amazing life, and I hope you and Taylor have a fabulous trip to Alaska! XO

  15. She must have been an AWASOME  memaw! She looks so beautiful in THOES pink sunglasses.

  16. Such beautiful words Lindsay, I am really sorry for your loss, all the best

  17. Hugs to you, sweet friend… Your grandmother sounds like she was an inspirational woman. You’ll have an amazing time in Alaska, living it up in her memory!

  18. Your grandparents sounded like really wonderful, fascinating people. My warmest condolences on the loss of your dear grandmother.

  19. Oh Lindsay, the biggest hugs!!!! This was a beautiful tribute to your grandma, it really moved me. Love you <3

  20. What a beautiful story, the love shows through your words – I’m calling my aging mom right now.  Life is precious is too short.  God Bless you.

  21. Lindsay, my deepest condolences for your lost! I was deeply touched reading your post. I wish you much strength. What you do seems a great way to think of your grandmother.

  22. I’m so sorry for you’re loss. Grandparents add such great things to our lives. Your memories will always be with you and will shape you for the rest of your life. I say catch a big one and come back to the Roaring Fork and catch another. And live. It sounds like they really did!

  23. Beautifully said, Lindsay.  I’ll never forget the weekend of your 21st birthday, when Elaine and I were “roomies” for cooking classes in Napa.  She was a beautiful woman, and I will always remember her fondly.  Your lovely tribute to her made me laugh and cry at the same time.  Hugs to you and all your family!

  24. What an amazing tribute to your grandmother. It’s so difficult to see our loved ones in that place where they are losing themselves. This is such a touching post and I can completely relate to what you’re feeling right now. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I hope you have an amazing trip to Alaska and that you catch that big fish :)

  25. My thoughts are with you Lindsay.  Grandparents are a really tough loss.

  26. Lindsay thank you writing this and for you and Robin being here to help me get through this. It means so much to me.  

  27. Many hugs to you – keep your memories close to your heart, and know that your dear Grams and Poppoo will live there forever.

  28. Lindsay, my deepest condolences for your lost! I was deeply touched reading your post. I wish you much strenght. What you do seems a gray to think of your grandmother.

  29. I am so sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful loving tribute to your grandmother.  What a beautiful woman, and couple.  Enjoy the fishing trip and I am sure you will have some sort of sign that you are not alone while fishing. Prayers for strength for you and your family in the difficult times ahead, and a safe journey.

  30. I love this…your tribute to your grandmother. We’re lucky to have had great people for grandparents and you’re so right about taking opportunities as they come…even when the time isn’t right. I can’t wait to see you tmrrw and will be thinking of you today for her service. 

  31. This is so sweet and touching, I’m welling up as I type this.  My Nana Anna was a sassy lady who also loved to fish with my Grampa. He named his boat after her, MyAnna. :-) Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and your grandparents sound like they were super cool people. xo, M

  32. I am very sorry for your loss. When I lost my grandfather I was only 19 he was my favorite go to person for everything, and because I was in school plus he was all the way in florida I didn’t attend either. . My gram is now whittling down as well from Alzheimer disease, and I learned from my grandfathers passing that I need to be there for her last few months even moments. You seem to have had a beautiful relationship with your grandparents. My condolences for your loss , Keeping the memories of her alive in your post and travels is a great way to honor her. 

  33. What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. I know what you are going through as I recently lost my Dad (and also didn’t arrive in time to catch his last breath for which I am grateful). It’s hard sometimes to accept they have gone to a better place, but it’s the only way to get through the grief. A book that helped me a lot was Proof of Heaven (written my an emminent Neurologist who was in a coma for about 7 weeks). It brought me such a lot of comfort  xx

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