Thanks to everyone who passed along condolences and well-wishes in comments and emails. They were all very much appreciated. My grandmother was a week or so from 91, wasn't sick and suffering and lived in her house by herself up to the very end. When my mom and I arrived at her house we found piles of papers and photos she had already started to sort through so clearly she was ready to move on to the next thing. But while her death wasn't completely unexpected, it was still a sad weekend. Leaving the only house I remember her living in on Saturday night, knowing I probably won't ever be back there, was pretty tough.
As I've mentioned a time or two in this space, my first sports love was the Pittsburgh Pirates. As I've also mentioned here a time or two, my family moved from Pittsburgh to Birmingham, AL when I was a wee infant. For those of you who are rusty on your United States geography, Pittsburgh is oh, 700 or so miles from Birmingham.
Those of you who are my age or older will be able to reach back in the recesses of your memories and recall a time when every other household didn't have a dish on its roof and there were no sports packages you could order with one click of a TV remote. Professional sports leagues and teams didn't have websites and you couldn't pull up newspapers across the country on your computer screen. No, if you were a fan of an out-of-market team, you were on a deserted island, trying to drink up enough ESPN highlights to survive for another day, not always easy when your beloved team was small market and not the most prominent sports team in the city.
Unless you were me. Every couple of weeks, I'd open the mail box and find a video full of Pirates games or an envelope stuffed to capacity with things from the Pittsburgh papers: game stories, columns, player profiles and photos oh, man the photos. I fully believe I have every photo of Andy Van Slyke the Pittsburgh press ran between 1988 and 1994. It didn't matter if it was a full color, above the fold photo on the front page of the sports section or a one inch square photo buried on a back page somewhere, Grandma cut it out and shoved it in that envelope. The games were a couple of weeks old by the time I got them but I still watched them and the stories and columns were about events long over but I still read them. No, I devoured them. Grandma was not a sports lover herself but she knew her granddaughter loved them and that was enough for her to learn how to use a VCR and break out the scissors every morning. I didn't do a very good job of letting her know how much I loved getting those packages in the mail but I guess she probably knew because she went right on sending them.
So while Grandma didn't have much of a connection to hockey, the Sabres or this blog, (though she was, oddly enough, born in Buffalo) she was very responsible for nurturing the love of sports that brought me to the point where I spend a ridiculous amount of time writing a blog that I make no money off of whatsoever. She was also pretty convinced I was the best writer to ever put pen to paper so if you've ever read something here and thought, "Jeez, what in heaven's name would make this woman think I have any interest in reading this?" well, you can blame it on Grandma.
My other favorite thing about my grandmother, completely unrelated to all of the above but worth mentioning, is how much she loved reading. I know that my family is full of readers because of her. Long after I was an adult, working full-time, married and supporting myself, she always slipped me $20 in a bookstore. How awesome is that?
Bonus photo, found in Grandma's stuff this weekend:
Back to hockey tomorrow, I promise.