Joan

I knew her as Grandma, but she was Joan for 50 years before I burst into the world and changed her name forever. During the two decades we shared each other's lives, I never saw her as Joan. Only in the 11 years since her death have I really gotten to know her as a woman. When she died, I was nineteen and barely a woman myself. Since then, I've inherited so many of her photo albums, books, letters, treasures and memories. Through them, I've learned more about the real Joan Fay Stroup Portillo-Shaffer... 

She loved to laugh...

She was so pretty.

She was so pretty.

She loved picking my mom up from the airport. 

LAX around 1980. Photo by my grandfather, Sid.

LAX around 1980. Photo by my grandfather, Sid.

To this day, I can't go to the airport without thinking of her. 

To this day, I can't go to the airport without thinking of her. 

Pure joy.

Pure joy.

So happy.

So happy.

She loved nature and short-shorts.

Exploring.

Exploring.

She loved animals.

All creatures great and small.

All creatures great and small.

I love this.

I love this.

Her greatest love, Sid. 

True love.

True love.

He died when they were only 50 years old, almost exactly one year after I was born. She said I was the one bright spot in her very dark world. 

Even at 11 months old, I loved her so much.

Even at 11 months old, I loved her so much.

Our family lived on opposite sides of the world, and later, on opposite sides of the country. When we were together, we made every moment count. 

Together until the bitter end.

Together until the bitter end.

We always waited together until the plane left the terminal. The last time she waited with us was August 2001, one month 9/11. Two years later, I took myself to the airport because my mom couldn't leave her. She died one day later, less than one month before her 70th birthday.

She was always there. I still can't go to the airport without thinking of her.

Thank goodness for memories.

After a long trip from London.

After a long trip from London.

Our last airport photo taken in August 2001.

Our last airport photo taken in August 2001.