There are few people who have affected my life as much as this lovely woman. I met Dijuan Coates in 1985, the year I met the teenage boy who would become my husband. He would visit her, his grandmother, amid travels and then he and I would hang out, tromping through the hazelnut orchard that surrounded her house at the outskirts of Newberg. He gave me a rose from her backyard once. Then his younger brother came along to eat off the bloom. It was in that yard that years later she showed Brian and I photos of her life, of Grandpa Coates, of her boys when they were young.
Over the years, his grandma became my grandma. We divorced and have barely spoken, but Grandma Coates has been there for me and my kids the whole time, never wavering. She was kind and gentle, loving and compassionate. We rarely spoke about the divorce or her grandson. Instead she spent her time reminding me how much she loved me and the kids. How grateful that she was that I hadn’t ignored her post-divorce. What she never understood is how much I appreciated her not abandoning us.
While we were in Vietnam back in 2007, she’d had surgery and her eyes were bad. I wanted to visit, but clearly distance was an issue. I emailed my mom to see if she’d visit in my stead and she did. I will always be grateful to both women for that visit. My mom spent a couple hours catching up with her, sharing stories of our travels with Grandma, sending our love.
In Summer 2010 we were able to take a road trip to California and visited Grandma at her new home in Gilroy. We got to share an evening with her, Uncle Dennis and Aunt Jackie. having dinner as a family. I brought her photos and the kids got to see her, tell her how much we loved her still. I’d hoped to go again this past summer, but with the unemployment the cost of a trip made it impossible.
I knew Grandma for 27 years. She showed me how to love family, even when it isn’t easy. She lives on in my heart and the memories of my children who were lucky enough to know their great great-grandmother.
Grandma passed away on Monday, after a thankfully brief health crisis filled with a stroke, massive heart attack and a destructive skin infection. A memorial will be held soon.