Helen W. Nelson. 10.2.1917 – 12.13.2012.

Jesse was extremely close with his grandmother, Helen Nelson, who peacefully let go of the grass yesterday morning. Thoughts and prayers are with Jesse and his family. Rest in peace, Tiny General.

helen nelson, RIP

And this from Jesse…

This is hard. Even when someone lives a rich and full life, it is so hard to say goodbye this one last time. What gives me a little comfort is that I can only conclude at this point in time that my grandma was OK to leave this world, because if you knew her, then you know that Helen Nelson was not about to do anything she didn’t want to do. Right? Can I see by a show of hands if anyone ever got the best of negotiation with her? That’s what I’m saying. So I know in my heart that she must have been at peace with this. And I will miss her terribly and often but I don’t doubt that she left here on her own terms, because that was how she lived her whole life.

And make no mistake about it! My grandma was a powerful woman. A dynamo! She really was, and she was so tiny people were constantly thrown off guard– and that’s when she’d really get them right where she wanted them. She had boundless energy and a very firm idea of how things ought to be and this made her not unlike a force of nature. The classic line that comes to my mind is Uncle Jerry’s– when she’d be in full-on Tiny General mode, he’d roll his eyes and say, “That’s nothing! You should have seen her when she was YOUNG.”

She was also the embodiment of persistence. Especially in the face of adversity. She had the most incredible iron will – when she set her mind on a thing, she would Make. That. Thing. Happen. Like a laser! I never have seen anything like it. It could manifest anywhere, anytime. One time a few years back I couldn’t get an appointment to see this doctor for a check-up, and I was calling them from her house (bear in mind, it was Grandma who was insisting I call to make the appointment in the first place.) Anyway, they refused to see me, they were totally booked for weeks, and so on. Grandma waited until I left and called them back, and so when I got home there was a message from her: she got me the appointment! And when I asked her how she managed it, she said offhandedly, “I told them how it was going to be, darling.” I told them how it was going to be!  You see, “no” was never an option. When unexpected setbacks would happen, she would say “Honey, you just have to keep going. You must!” And she had loads of catch phrases about the need for persistence: “Can’t keep an old horse down!” “I’m fine! You know your old Grandma!” She didn’t believe in quitting but she definitely believed in surviving, in adapting. She was a soldier, she did what was necessary, she persevered. And I will try to always remember that wonderful quality when times are tough. “You just have to keep going!” She was a truly remarkable person.

But back to this idea of her being adaptable: she really was, and part of it I think stemmed from the fact that she had this unquenchable curiosity about the world. True or not, the stereotype is that as you get older, you get more rigid, you disdain change, you retreat into what you’re comfortable with… Grandma wasn’t having any of that. She was attuned to which way the winds were blowing. She was always so CURRENT. She had her nose in the most recent bestseller, was up to speed about the newest political scandal, knew who was dating who in Hollywood and could tell you where the S&P 500 closed yesterday. She loved to shop, she was a skilled lifelong shopper and she was always on point with the latest fashion trends. And she kept abreast of technology… she used email! There’s people I work with at my office that don’t know how to use email, but my grandma had an email address and she used to send me emails. Almost 90 years old, and I’d get these one line emails from her – “When are you going to visit? When are we seeing you? Call your mother.” And these messages would look like a ransom notes, you know, with random capitalizations because she had issues with the shift key. But she learned how to use email. She was not going to get left behind.

She was smart as hell. She had both sides of the brain firing in a way that conferred an unfair advantage – I think she could easily have been a career mathematician, or some kind of quantum physicist – she could calculate whole columns of numbers in her head, like Rain Man. She also had this keen interest in stocks, she could have worked for Goldman – she understood the stock market, and she loved making trades. She even started to get into trading options, before the market crashed. OPTIONS! Grandma’s talking about trading options, again! And you know, I used to mock cluck my tongue at her, but the truth is I was really proud of her interests. There weren’t a lot of grandma’s that I knew talking about trading options.

One other crazy thing. Her memory. Her memory was ridiculous! Up until this year, she never missed a single birthday, anniversary, or important occasion. You’d always get a card, a phone call, a thoughtful gift. The memory thing could cut both ways, too, because she’d remember everything you ever said, and the day and year you said it. She’d catch you in some contradiction with something said three years ago, and then BAM, next thing you knew, you were doing whatever the thing was she wanted you to do in the first place. So I guess she if she’d wanted, she could have been an incredible trial lawyer, too. Granted, she would have needed platform heels to be seen above the bench, but I don’t doubt she had the intellect to win any case presented.

Powerful, persistent, adaptable, and smart… There’s so many things she was good at. But what I most want to leave you with is the thing I personally found her to be best at: being my Grandma. This little lady was a rock for me for 37 years. She was dependable. She was loving and kind and beyond generous. She continued to pick me up and dust me off whenever necessary well into adulthood. She was fierce in her devotion to family and all her friends, but she was always quick to laugh and kid and joke. She loved life so much and I already miss hearing the barrage of her voicemail messages, “…Hi darling, it’s only your Grandma. You say in your message that you’ll call back, but I bet you won’t!”

You were the best Grandma a kid could ask for, and I am grateful for the time we spent together. I love you, Grandma.

2 thoughts on “Helen W. Nelson. 10.2.1917 – 12.13.2012.

  1. What a lucky woman she was to have a grandson like you Jesse. But I imagine it wasn’t luck – from what you wrote, I doubt she left it to chance. She worked at it and you got it. On second thought – you are the lucky one. Beautiful Jesse – Judith

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