Sometimes when your dad and grandma pass away within a year of one another it is overwhelming. Granted she was 94 and had paid her dues to longevity, but when you know someone for 36 years it becomes quite difficult to say goodbye.
My grandmother passed away last Wednesday, August 28, 2013. It's difficult to fit a lifetime of memories into a single post, so consider this the abridgment. When I was quite young Grandma thought we all should dance. I remember very little except a grass skirt and bikini top she brought back from Hawaii and that an attempt to teach us to hula dance to a song about the hooki lou. Probably I spelled that wrong. I also remember her repeating, "Shuffle step, shuffle step, shuffle step," as she patiently tried to teach us tap dancing. Poor woman; it never took.
Grandma's house was a magical place. In her back yard there was an irrigation ditch that was perfect for sailing sticks and leaves on irrigation day and made a great boundary between her yard and the back yard where we had the rabbit's club. Like most clubs, it was for members only and highly exclusive so that only the most elite of society could belong. We had parades and made up chants and our very indulging grandmother even afforded us the materials to make a flag. Her most priceless contribution, however, was a small, glass, purple-topped jar that had once been filled with moisturizer or something. I think it fit all $0.57 we cleared as a profit from our bake sale. (This might not be considered much, but as we sold the leftovers to the adults after dinner, I think it is quite a remarkable amount.)
Speaking of dinner, Grandma was good at home cooking. Her meals were well balanced and she always had the table set complete with a container of napkins. Goulash was a specialty. When we had large family dinners she put tables in every room in her house. Now as I watch my own children with their grandmother (my mom), I don't know how she withstood the invasions. We loved it and I feel very close to my cousins because she was willing to lend her house, but man. . . there were a lot of us and except when we were standing in line (not very orderly like) to be served ice cream, her patience rarely wore thin.
My grandparents watched us frequently when my parents traveled for my dad's work. I loved being at her house; it was just so homey. Each day began with a prayer wherein my grandpa or grandma blessed everything they could think of, or so it seemed to a hungry little girl. On one such occasion, I was sixteen and the boy I very much liked came to drop me off at their house. We stood in the driveway talking for awhile when suddenly the front porch light went on, then off, then on, then off. It wasn't a signal my parents ever used, but there was no doubt about the meaning; it was time to come in.
I had two favorite things about my grandma's appearance. One was her skin. I'm not product pushing, but she used oil of olay for many years and her skin was always so soft and smooth with a healthy luster. Even as she grew older I loved to hold her hands because her skin was so soft. The second thing was her red coat. She wore it often on the farm, especially when she and my grandpa went to feed. She once confided that it was because if she wore something else, the cows might not recognize her.
The treasure of having a grandma from the time you are born until you are well into adulthood is that the relationship you share changes over time. When I was little, she was like a second mom. I remember her picking me up from school on occasion when my mom was out of town and I needed to fake being sick. She took care of me, fed me, bathed me, and read to me. As I got older, the relationship changed and my friends became one of the most important aspects of my life. She was always kind to them and treated them courteously when they joined me for family parties. The relationship changed again when one year, at her birthday party, I realized I was an adult and probably should have thought to bring her a present. Acting quickly, I made her a coupon for dinner at my house once a week. I can only count it as inspiration because our relationship changed again after that and she became one of my best friends. I loved that she had time for me, to listen to my frustrations as I took on motherhood. She would sit and read with my children and talk with them while I finished dinner. Then over the spread of whatever I had managed to throw together, she would share stories and ask about what was going on in our lives. That tradition continued right up until she broke her hip and had to be moved to a care facility.
I'm grateful that she's home now, maybe even a little jealous. It seems the older I get, the more and more people I love are ending up on the other side. She's there with them now and not as the old woman she had become, but as the woman she is inside. It is a marvel to me that our Heavenly Father thought of everything. I have been uniquely blessed by the family to which I have been born and by the family that have joined my husband and me as our children. It is my hope as I journey through this life that I have the same ability that my grandma had to help others on their way, to provide a means to make the world a better place just because I was in it. She knew what was right and though she had multiple opportunities to wallow in her own misery and could have allowed life to beat her down, she didn't. She worked through what came her way and kept moving forward.