There are a few things you should know about my grandma Alice. You should know that she and her sister once spent a summer working at Yosemite National Park in the the 1940s. You should know that she can ride a bicycle backwards--that is, with her body facing the back tire. You should know that she got up on waterskis the summer she turned 80. You should know that she routinely pulled in 140-pound halibut off the back of a fishing boat in Alaska. You should know that she completed a ropes course in Costa Rica in her 60s. You should know that she can play a mean game of pinochle, and that she has the purest poker face in the world. You should know that her pies are so good that my brother and his wife used her recipe for their wedding desserts.
You should know that, when I was a kid and terribly shy, she was one of the few adults in the world who really understood what that meant.
You should know that when I was little, she was the soft grandma, the quiet one with a knack for listening and an endless supply of stories. You should know that she and my grandfather came to nearly every Sacramento regatta I competed in. You should know that I still own the purple and white sweater she knitted for me when I was five years old. You should know that she and grandpa hosted Christmas every year until us grandkids grew too tall to all sleep before the fire, and while every subsequent Christmas has been lovely, they are different without my grandpa's shadow lurking in the kitchen, my grandma's various hidden cookie jars.
You should know that my grandma has dignity.
You should know that when I saw her today, recovering from a bad fall, tubes and machines whirring around her, I saw a person stronger than I have ever been, and who knows, might ever be.
You should know that with grandmas like her, that's a quality that never fades.