05 March 2008

In Memory of My Grandma

We all know the familiar creak of the hallway floor and the scent of the laundry room. We know what it’s like to sit on the davenport and see Grandpa in his chair and Grandma in hers. We know that there would be a can of peanuts at his side and a novel at hers. There would be gin and tonic before dinner and coffee after. Sports would undoubtedly be on the television and Grandpa would practice putting on rough orange and yellow ‘greens’ during commercials.

If you ever slept on the living room floor on the second-career red foam mattresses, then you know the way headlights wash through the curtains late at night and move from one wall round to the other. You would expect Grandma to leave the stove light on as a nightlight, and you know that the sound of breakfast preparations would awaken you at an earlier hour than you would have liked. You’d sleepily watch her movements through the cut glass collected along the half wall as she prepared toast and brewed coffee.

If it was your job to store the mattresses in their daytime home behind the wardrobe, you might linger in the back room gazing at the dresser top holding Grandpa’s ceramic tray with watch and golf tee, coins and signature pocket knife. A comforting feeling of reverence for this dear man comes over you as you stand in his dressing room.

Of course, he’s in the shop puttering away as the waves of talk radio float through the wooden door and thin glass window. He’ll probably show you the umbrella hat or pull down the rope from the loft so you can swing a bit while he works. All the while, he repeatedly lifts an old stained can to his lips. Then he’ll take the Dixon for a spin.

You’d wander back inside, pausing to admire the miniature shoes on the windowsill. If Grandma isn’t out back hanging laundry on the line, you’ll most likely find her in the kitchen and you’d hop up on the stool, grab a cookie out of the big glass jar and doodle with the pencil on the scratch paper for awhile. If in Florida, you’d walk with Grandma down the quiet road to collect the mail from the post office or visit a neighbor who has oranges from the orchard to share.

Whether in Mt. Gilead or Zolfo, the afternoon will bring a trip to the golf course. As a child, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to drive the cart, hold the flag, and rake the sand-traps. You might forget their age and think of them as young again as they take a club in their hands and gaze down the fairway. We can still see Grandpa in the green pants and Grandma in her visor and hear the sound of their golf shoes as they cross the parking lot.

Before these carefree days of retirement, life was a long string of adventures. Grandma covered a lot of ground between 1916 and 2008. Some of those experiences we all shared together… like a week in Zolfo Springs when the ‘aliens’ came to celebrate their Golden wedding anniversary. Some other times were shared only by the family of five who cheered on the Trotwood-Madison Rams. Many memories were shared only by the two of them, like the moments before Joy was born that Grandpa had his laboring wife play a few rounds of ping-pong before heading to the hospital. And even more moments, those that were made before she met her lifelong companion were memories for Grandma alone.

We have heard many stories, laughed many laughs and marveled at all the experiences one determined girl from West Sonora can experience in one long, healthy lifetime. Although we are thankful we have these treasured memories; there will be no more. Whatever other experiences, bits of knowledge, wisdom, lessons learned, heartaches and joys that she could have offered to each of us are now seemingly locked up. We’ve learned all we can. What we know now is what we can hold onto. What we share with each other prolongs Grandmas presence in our hearts and in our own lives.

We will remember her… our dear Mother and our dear Grandma, whose warm smile we will still see and whose firm squeeze on our knee we will still feel.

(This was read this afternoon at my Grandma's memorial service halfway around the world.)

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