Margaret Ellen Savage was born in a little town called Entwistle, outside of Edmonton, in Alberta Canada on May 11, 1919, one hundred years ago Saturday. She was my maternal grandmother, my mom’s mom. Although both of my grandmothers names are “Margaret,” my mom named me after her mother, giving me both her first and middle names.
My grandma, who I simply called, “Grandma,” but whom everyone else called by her middle name, “Ellen,” was my confidant when I was a growing girl. It was with her that I saw my first music video on a late-night television show after Grandpa went to bed. I told her my secrets, she listened to my hopes and my dreams and fears.
When I was a young parent, still living with my mother and my infant and toddler sons, my grandparents moved into Olympia from Union, a tiny community on Hood Canal where they had lived throughout my entire life. I missed the front yard ready to swim in every summer, but I enjoyed having my grandparents closer. When they moved into a house only a block away, I thought we had forever.
Life moved on and I would announce my upcoming marriage to my grandparents while helping them move on Easter into another house a few doors down from my mother. I had moved my boys into an apartment with my fiance, no longer walking distance from my grandma.
I was her first grandchild, it was a special feeling. As a grandma now, I understand a bit differently. Each grandchild has a special and different relationship with their grandparent. I remember Grandma as my best friend. I had her to myself for three and a half years before my cousin and then a few weeks later, my brother, were born. I was no longer her only grandchild.
She never stopped making me feel special. She still hasn’t. When my mother and I visited my grandma’s birthplace in Alberta, Canada, in August last year, I felt closer to Grandma than I have in years.
Grandma passed away when my daughter was only three. It was April 1993. Her last words to my grandfather were indicating the pain that overwhelmed her body with the lung cancer that took her quickly after a Thanksgiving diagnosis the previous year.
This wasn’t the first instance of that particular disease in her family, her brother who had inhaled years of second-hand smoke while serving in government, Charles Savage, had passed several years earlier also from lung cancer.
I’m thankful Grandma’s passing was fairly quick after her diagnosis, but it didn’t minimize the affect her loss had on the family that she had acted as a strong matriarch of. We missed her. We still do.
I felt her spirit join with myself and my mom many times in our journey last year to Alberta. I feel her near right now. I know that Grandma watches me and I hope that she is okay with me sharing this. She never called a lot of attention to herself, but I always felt she should. She was an amazing woman.
Happy 100th Birthday, Grandma. Love, your namesake.