In Memorium

My grandmother passed away today, she was 92 years old. To say that I have and always will love her, just isn’t enough to express how I have and always will feel about her.

My grandmother, Irene Camille Rivers (nee Dahlen), was a woman of extraordinary talent, strength and temerity. Ever  since I was a small girl, I wanted to be like her but I don’t think I will ever quite make muster. My grandmother did not crochet, or sew, or knit, or embroider. My grandmother did not wear “grandma” clothes, in fact she really did like Calvin Klein, and Liz Claibourne.  Grandma wasn’t much of the domestic sort, but she was one heck of a fine lady, who pioneered a career in social services, did not believe in glass ceilings, and was a strong proponent of literacy, and social justice. She was into Fair Trade before Fair Trade was cool. Before electronic typewriters she could type 120 wpm without error, after all as a woman she had to be better, stronger, faster; and always in more control.

This very passionate granddaughter, often worried her controlled and “just so” grandmother. Oh, not that she wasn’t proud, but as I was growing up, my “big mouth” concerned my grandmother. It wasn’t that she didn’t want me to be political, or vocal; she wanted me to be effective.

How many granddaughters have the priveledge of activist training from Grandma? When I was in my early career and managing a team of men, I got to call her for advice. When I came home to America to start my life over with two small children, at almost 30, I was completely comfortable with her offering up her old business warddrobe for me to use as my shopping closet. A 30 year old camel hair skirt worked for me as much as it did her: Classy was her middle name.

Well, ok, Camille was her middle name. But, to me Grandma was always a class act.

When I started the CLF and people began to join, Grandma and I giggled together over it. When I explained what I hoped to accomplish with the group, she was thrilled. Even though she didn’t like crafting, she valued all arts and crafts. In fact, she commissioned many crocheted pieces by a wonderfully talented friend of hers, and paid her very well, because she did value such labors.

My grandmother taught me many things, including how to stop, think, then speak. If not for my grandmother, there would be no CLF. After all, she always supported my political acts, even when I was 5 and wrote the Hershey’s company a letter complaining about their rasing the price of candy bars from 20 cents to a quarter! Or when I was seven and wrote my congress person a letter about saving the baby seals in Alaska. Grandma encouraged my passions, while teaching me to hone them. She taught me to search for the best words, not just spew whatever was on top of my tongue at the moment.

That and she taught me to bake cookies and make a mean pie crust and how to wash socks out in the sink.

Irene Camille Dahlen Rivers b. April 9, 1918 – d. May 12, 2010   Forever in my heart.

I still want to be her when I grow up.


12 responses to “In Memorium

  1. Hello: I am very touched by your post. What a beautiful lady your grandma was. May she rest in peace! You know you are a better person because of your grandmas teaching. You are blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from her and know her for a long time. What a smart lady she was and lived a full life. May angels give you comfort in your time of need. Blessings, Adrienne in New York.

  2. I love grandmas. They’re the reason so many of us pick up a needle and thread that first time. Big love.

  3. I am so sorry to hear this. She seemed to be doing so well after her stroke and I had high hopes that you would get much more time with her. She sounds like a truly fabulous woman and this world is a little darker without her in it. I am positive that her spirit will continue through you, and I, with the rest of the CLF, look forward to where that will take us.

    much love to you and yours

  4. Beautifully said mon ami.

    So happy for you that you had so many years with your grandmother. My paternal grandmother was an amazing woman who left this world over 20 years ago. Her influence in my life is still there as I know your grandmother’s influence will stay with you.

  5. You could have been talking about my grandmother. She’s also 92 and very spry. She campaigned for McGovern and has always taught me to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. I count myself lucky every day that my children know her. I’ll be visiting my Granny this weekend, but I’ll think of you. Everyone should be lucky enough to have the guidance of grandmothers like ours.

    keeping you in my thoughts.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. You and yours will be in my thoughts and prayers.
    It’s a very difficult adjustment, so take it easy on yourself. Be as gentle with yourself as you would a friend who lost a loved one.

  7. Normally I try to reply to every comment. I just don’t think I can do this right now. I’m up and I’m down. But, I can tell you all, that I am very comforted and touched by your words. My heart just aches right now, I know it will pass, and I know how lucky I am to have had my grandma until I reached almost 41! Equally it means, it just hurts like hell.

  8. My sincere condolences. I’m so moved to know how much she meant to you. Please do not feel obligated to reply. Much love to you and your family.

  9. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. Your Grandmother sounds like an absolutely amazing person! She still lives on in you, and the CLF, and in all that you do.

  10. I miss my grandmother and think of her every day. My mother and I lived with her until I was 11 years old and I never really forgave my mom for moving us out. She has been gone now for nearly 20 years but in many ways, I think she is still with me. I find great strength and wisdom and a bit of impish humor in my memories of her.

    I know how much you miss them!

    Just know that we are all here if you need us.


  11. I am so sorry for your loss and I pray your heartbreak will ease after awhile. As lucky as you were to have such a wonderful grandma I’m sure she felt absolutely blessed to have a grandaughter who loved her as much as you did.

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