Betty Kane is my grandmother, teacher and role model.
We lost her a year ago today, and I still imagine being able to visit her in Rhode Island every summer, walk down the stairs in her home each morning and see her sitting by the living room window with her cup of black coffee and the newspaper.
While Grammy's passing was one of the biggest losses I've ever experienced, I want to celebrate her anniversary and the incredible woman she was in the best way i know how - through photographs.
Since I was a baby, my family and I spent just about every summer at my grandparents' house in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
One year, I discovered a trove of old family photos in a wooden cabinet in their living room and begged Grammy to tell me the stories behind them.
Each consecutive time I'd visit, at my request, we would sit on her paisley couch surrounded by the yellowed pictures.
Grammy would straighten her back, delicately hold each photo in her hands, point out every person in the photo and describe each memory from the day it was taken as if it was the first time I'd ever heard it. I never got tired of it.
She told me about how she won a Shirley Temple look-alike contest as a little girl. She shared stories of my great-grandmother who loved beautiful hats and my great uncle who was once the mayor of Providence.
She gave special care to a photo she gifted my grandfather when they were dating with the words "All my love, Betty" written on the front.
She joked about how Papa "chased" after her in college. "That's where it all began," she'd say before winking at him from across the room. That photo withstood more than 62 years of marriage.
Grammy told me about when my parents first met during the weekend of my aunt's wedding and how she knew my mom was the one for "Her Michael."
She'd speak about her trips to visit our family in Ireland and how she convinced Papa to drive instead of fly to Florida in the winters because of her horrible fear of airplanes.
She laughed about her beehive hairdos and lit up when recalling the evenings she'd spent dancing the night away with Papa.
She'd beam when she spoke of building sandcastles with her grandchildren at the beach, where she'd also beg us not to go into the water past our knees.
She'd speak proudly of her own children's accomplishments - the places they'd lived, the new jobs they had, the countries they travelled to. she'd marvel at how beautiful they looked on their wedding days and at oceanside dinner parties. "Doesn't she look dah-lin?" she'd say with her Rhode Island accent.
She'd recall the moment she was named the may day queen in college and joke about being "quite a dish back in the day."
She'd also speak fondly about the golf tournaments and bridge games she won throughout the years.
But after the hundreds of photos we'd looked at over time, Grammy never boasted about some of her most incredible accomplishments.
After raising five kids, Grammy went back to school to obtain her master's degree, which allowed her to teach in Providence until her retirement just one year before I was born. She didn't talk about the impact she made on her students lives, many of whom were from some of the most under-represented areas of the city. Students who, decades after Grammy was their teacher, recalled what a fair and compassionate person she always was.
Grammy wouldn't brag about how she fostered several children after school and provided them with dinner and a safe place to do their homework every night.
And while she never gave herself credit for being the most amazing mother, sister, teacher, Grammy/Mema, wife and friend, the photos she eventually passed down to me do a great deal of the talking for her.
Knowing I won't get to hear Grammy tell me anymore stories in this lifetime absolutely breaks my heart. But she gave me her photos, armed me with their memories and prepared me to share them with my loved ones for (God willing) many many years.
Grammy, I miss you every day & look forward to sharing more stories when we meet again. Save me a seat on your paisley couch - we have a lot to catch up on.
All my love, Kristin.