My earliest memories of my grandma are from when I was probably around 3 years old. I’m unsure whether I remember these firsthand or have seen them in home videos over the years, but I can vividly picture the orchard out behind the home they lived in. I’d ride in a trailer she pulled behind her lawnmower, and we’d get out near the trees and walk around a bit, sometimes meandering into the woods. She was always pruning and weeding and that trailer behind the mower, when not filled with grandkids, was filled with trimmings for the burn pit. I remember playing gnip gnop in the basement of their home, and having sleepovers. They had a waterbed, and I couldn’t get over how cool it was to have a bed full of water. The precious moments knick-knacks on their mirrored headboard shelves were my favorite to play with. I remember the decor, especially the placement of two pieces that eventually were passed down to my husband and I in our first home… a big, heavy orange hide-a-bed couch, and a bathroom cabinet with wheat stamped into the tin on the door.
My memories go on to when they moved ‘up north’. That period of my life, from around age 5 to age 13, we lived a few hours south of my Grandparents, and there were frequent weekend visits and lots of driving. I’d come visit on the weekends, and I remember the rhythmic movement of keys in the ignition, her snoopy keychain clinking against her elongated metal circle – I think it said something about being a Grandma on it. I looked forward to my time with my grandparents, escaping the city for the country, where I was free to roam. We’d often stop at the buckhorn saloon for pizza on the way up north. I’d use so much parmesan on mine, which made me feel like a princess, as parmesan was a hot commodity back home. When I got up north to their house, the first thing I’d do was get ‘my desk’ back in order – which wasn’t really mine, as it was shared with my cousins – and check out ‘my fort’ in the top of the white barn – same thing there. I’d make sure the paper and pens were in order in the storage drawers and maybe read some James and the Giant Peach. I’ve never been much for re-reading a book, but man, I read that book so many times there. Something about the oversized copy with the minimal use of pictures. I’d often come stay with them for a week or so at a time. My Grandma and I would do crafts – I remember making macrame plant hangers, building things out of wood, painting, and doing woven string and nail art once. I’d get to be my Grandpa’s helper on projects – cleaning the heads on the VCR, fixing a lamp, vacuum, or something else. My Grandma (and Mom) are where I got my artistic side, and my Grandpa (and Dad) where I got my fix-it side. A great mix. Grandma had Faith Hill and Jo Dee Messina CDs in her car, and we’d sing “Wild One” and “Bye Bye” while driving around dirt roads, running to the high-button shoe to see if she had any new pieces of refurbished furniture or vintage goodies, or to the mill for more gardening supplies. Grandma and Grandpa sent me to summer camp for a week several years in a row with my cousin. I sure enjoyed that.
They taught me so much, both through patient teaching and through letting me figure things out on my own. One day, I even got to help them. They’d gotten a hand me down computer, and I got to teach them how to use it. I printed documents and put them in a binder so they could look back on how to use it after I’d left. Eventually, my Grandpa became a computer whiz, and would always attribute it to that week I spent teaching them. Grandma avoided it for a long time, but started doing schedules for the hospital auxiliary on it, and became a bit of a whiz herself.
Thankfully, when I was 15, we moved “up north” and lived right near my grandparents once again. Since then – for the last 20 years – we’ve lived nearby, and got to see them more frequently.
My Grandparents have always supported me. I remember shortly after my husband and I got married, my Grandma said ‘I ain’t watching no more grandbabies!’. My, she changed her mind pretty quickly when she met our oldest daughter. She’s watched both my kids many, many times over the years, and I know their memories are precious and could fill a novel. They’ve been our biggest cheerleaders in our parenting journey, mostly congratulating us and letting us know how proud they were, and rarely passing on some advice.
The last few years have been tough, so many ups and downs as Grandma fought – and won – against lymphoma. I thought my Grandma was invincible. She has always been so tough. Never wanted to be an inconvenience to anyone, so independent. It was hard to see her not be able to do as much as she used to. She was getting real sick of this body, that couldn’t do the things it used to… My Grandma, who was always going, going, going, doing, doing, doing… always in the kitchen making a snack or playing a game of scrabble or aggravation, or hauling the lawn chairs out to watch a grandchild’s softball game, ballet recital, or band performance… she couldn’t do those things anymore.
Her body was 81 years old, and very, very tired. And so today, Grandma went home to Jesus. She’d been looking forward to it. Family members gathered quickly when we got the call that Grandma had breathed her last. We shared memories and stories, we cried, we laughed. We listened to Grandpa talk, uninterrupted, everyone soaking up the stories he told. In May of 2021, I wrote down something she said about my Grandpa… “I guess I feel like there’s not another man alive that could’ve lived with me for 60 years.” I’m thankful that we got this last month and a half of ‘bonus’ time as she was on hospice. I hope that all the visits helped show her how cherished she was. Today, if you’d have seen Grandpa’s face, you’d have known how happy he was about those 60 years together. I sure am thankful for the 35 I had with you.