Monday, May 30, 2011


My paternal grandmother died this morning after a long illness. She was 94.

Virginia Miller Belcher was always G-G to me. She and my grandfather (but especially she) had no interest in being GrandMAW and GrandPAW, so my Aunt came up with G-G ("Grandmother Ginny") and G-Pop as hipper alternatives. It was 1970. They were starting a well-earned retirement, having survived the Great Depression and WWII privations to become self-made millionaires.

My grandfather was a well-mannered Southern gentleman ("Open the door for your grandmother"), but G-G sealed business deals with well-planned parties and dinners. She wasn't doing it to land the cover of Southern Living, either. Ginny Belcher had a journalism degree from Northwestern and, as she was proud of saying, had been the third-highest female employee at Illinois Bell before she got married. She saw potential in their partnership. She and G-Pop loved and doted on each other, but they were also driven people who stressed hard work and education as keys to success.

G-G and G-Pop helped raise me when my parents didn't have their acts together, which was most of the time. My grandparents were a stable influence during weekend visits. Rolling up the long driveway to their house was like passing into sanctuary. I knew there would be no angry yelling there.

I could count on a comfortable routine at their place. There were trips to the beach and shopping for decent clothes and dinners at the country club and church, always church. Say "Yes, Sir" and "No Ma'am." Stand up when people approach your table. Look don't touch. Is your homework done? They had a lot of patience, especially when I was a teenager with raw emotional nerves. They should have gotten medals.

It may have been another chance for them to get parenthood right, or it could have been penance for their son's behavior while married. But it doesn't matter to me. G-G and G-Pop were a badly-needed second set of parents and I loved them for it.

G-G was always my number one fan. Her rallying cry was "Well get to it, kid!" I'm 41 now and G-G's gone; her cheering will have to come from my memory.