In my books, I love Jazzi’s grandmother. She’s the one who taught Jazzi how to cook. When Jazzi was a little girl, she’d go to spend a weekend with her once in a while, and they’d fiddle in the kitchen together. But Gran has reached the age where she’s beginning to be forgetful and sometimes gets addled. It’s a mild case, though, and another woman whose husband died has moved into the farmhouse with her. Samantha couldn’t keep up her large house and property after she was widowed, so she and Gran have teamed up together. It suits them both.
I should also add that Gran has the gift of sight. More often than not, it’s hard to decipher and confuses Jazzi more than helps when Gran first announces a bit of information, but in the end, Gran’s always right. Ansel has a soft spot for her and is happy to fetch her a glass of red wine when she comes for Sunday meals.
In Lux 2–the book I’m working on now–Lux isn’t close to either set of her grandparents and never mentions them, but Keon knows his grandmother all too well. All five of the Johnson siblings dread spending time with her. She’s caustic and demanding. This sounds horrible, but I fashioned her after both of my grandmas but made her worse. My grannies were both tough, old birds. After my dad’s father died, his mom sat on the couch every day, eating bananas and reading True Confession magazines. My parents dragged us to her house every other weekend while they worked to keep her house in order. If we tried to talk to grandma to pass the time, she’d wave us away. Once, she threw a book at my sister’s head. I used that in a story.
My mom’s mother looked like a sweet, old lady. She wore her snow white hair pulled back in a bun, and her dark brown eyes sparkled, just not often with humor. I have to give her credit. She survived the depression with four kids, sometimes without enough food to make them supper. She’d tell them to go to bed early. Then, when her money got better and she moved to our hometown, her daughter caught diphtheria and went deaf. She had a hard life and never trusted that it would get easier. I respected her, but she wasn’t the type to spend pleasant afternoons with or cuddle.
I wanted to show both types of grandmas. Jazzi got lucky. Keon, not so much. But family bonds are strong, even when they chafe, so when Keon’s grannie breaks her hip and falls, Keon’s dad brings her to Summit City to live with him and his wife. And no one can see any good coming of that. But it’s hard to decide what to do when your parents reach an age that they can’t care for themselves anymore. It’s often an agonizing decision to put them in a nursing home, especially if they don’t want to go there. Often, though, there aren’t any good options. No matter what you decide, it doesn’t feel good. I wanted to show that, too.
I’m talking about grannies when my books are mysteries, but the characters in the books don’t just solve crimes. They work, entertain, and visit friends. And they have families. If you’re writing, I hope your characters are walking and talking on the pages for you. And happy writing!