And yet, I know the last two months of her life were painful and that going home to God and to her beloved husband was a well earned release for her. We'll all be together soon and forever; the time apart is insignificant in the grand scheme.
I've been meaning to do a tribute post of some of my favorite memories or pictures of her. I am still not sure I'm able to do it any kind of justice. Most likely I'll miss and offend more than honor. This is my nonsense, but here's a start.
First of all, let's all just agree that my great-grandparents, Harley and Minnie, were a dashing couple. Yes, Great-Grandpa's ears are the stuff of legend and re-appear in each generation, but that's my family. We do ears and noses with gusto.
They were married around 1908 (as noted on this picture) and had two daughters; Grandma was born in 1925.
I know precious little about her childhood. I always wanted to ask, but somehow it felt like "quick, tell me stuff before you die!" and so I never did. And now I can't. Go talk to your family and document stories. Go.
I do know she lived in St Marys, the next town over from my hometown of Celina. Our high school sports teams are rivals and we have a lot of good-natured trash talk between the towns, and I gather it was pretty well established even then. In fact, there's a legend in our hometown that the local man-made lake's naming rights came down to a gambling game between two men from our respective hometowns. The man from St Marys won the rights and named it "Grand Lake St Marys", even though Celina makes up the majority of the coastline. To this day, most Celina people refer to it as simply "Grand Lake" while most St Marys people use the full name. This is the stubborn blood of my people. Grandma ended up living in Celina for the last 25 years and 8 of her 10 grandchildren went to Celina schools, but she still seemed to prefer my brother-in-law who graduated from her alma mater of St Marys. Loyalties.
Grandma did tell me stories of going ice skating with various groups of friends in the winters, riding around and goofing off, being a good student, and "sparking" which elicited a lot of laughter from my grandpa. She positively lit up when she talked with or about him.
|Grandma, around age 7|
|Around age 19|
|Wedding: July 19, 1947|
Grandma worked at the hospital in town and Grandpa worked late at his job. They lived in the 3rd floor apartment above a 5-and-dime on Main street and on hot nights she would sit out on the fire escape and watch for him to come home. Some nights he would show up with ice cream cones and they'd sit outside enjoying the fresh air while the apartment cooled off. By the time they had kids they had moved to a house in another small farm town ten minutes south.
These two. I'm sure they had their rough days. They certainly had their share of difficult times with job changes and losses, four children, moves, and illnesses. Grandma had breast cancer early on (1960's) and beat it. They had three boys and a girl who still seem to delight in being as ornery as possible as often as possible. This is also a family trait.
|1968: Dad graduation|
|1968: Dad at boot camp|
|1988: Dad and Grandma goofing around|
My dad and grandma had a special relationship. My dad would tease her endlessly and they would both laugh. To all the world they would sound like they were fighting when they were both smiling at each crack. She would sigh and shake her head and say "Oh, Tim." in a way that was just bursting with love and pride while trying her hardest to sound frustrated. They were good friends and truly enjoyed each other's company. They could drive each other nuts, but that was the beauty of it all. I think my dad reminded her a lot of her husband: contrary, loyal, handy, and always quick with a witty come-back. Dad and Grandpa were very close, too, and we visited them every weekend even when they lived an hour away. They moved to our hometown area in 1985 and we visited weekly but also stopped in throughout the week. Dad and Grandma supported each other through Grandpa's illness and death and maintained that close friendship for the next fifteen years.
|1974, first grandson Aaron|
|2005 with Katie, her first great-grandchild|
My grandparents did not have much. They lived very simply and enjoyed their life just as it was. They never seemed to be caught up in the desperate race to have just a bit more to match those around them. They worked hard, for sure, but they lived within their means and made do; they appreciated everything and took care of what they had so it would last. This is also a family trait; if we remember to use it.
|My First Communion; 1985|
|My senior year 4H project dress; 1994|
|Our Wedding; 2000|
Grandma rarely missed a chance to be with the family, especially if it was something for the kids. As we sorted through images for her slideshow and photo boards we found pictures of her holding each of us at our baptisms, standing with us at First Communions, hugging us at high school graduations, and for a lucky few of us, beaming with pride at our weddings. In her later years she suffered from a lot of physical pain and was less able to get around but would still make a huge effort to participate in our lives. Knowing she wasn't able to get to us, though, we all rallied to be with her and made it a habit to call or visit often. She was the great keeper of all secrets. Everyone confided in her. And we knew they did because she then told everyone else! But she always kept the heart of the confidences private and would not hesitate to give her opinion on the matter in a frank but loving way to you or anyone else. She leaked important information in gentle ways to those that needed to hear things, and squashed any poor choices with a single look.
|2010: with Katie, August, and Jorge|
She was dear to everyone that knew her and in a small town that's pretty much everyone. The last time we saw her was over our Christmas visit in 2010. We were in and out of her house several times that visit and stopped by on our way out of town the last day of our trip. As we sat and chatted for an hour or so, we talked about cousins, nieces, nephews, her step-grandkids and great-grandkids, the weather, the holidays, the kids, their school, August (who was a chunk of cuteness at 4.5 months old), babies, and life in general. As we were winding down the visit, a knock on the door brought in two old family friends: Ted and Ken. They were brothers who had lived down the street as boys and were friends of my dad's. Ted had been Grandma's mailman for a decade or more and it was a family habit to put "Hi Ted!" on the envelope when sending Grandma a card. When Grandpa died and she became less mobile, he switched his routine to deliver the mail directly to her door rather than the community mailbox area and always stopped to say hello and see how she was doing. The brothers had stopped by that afternoon just to wish her a merry Christmas and visit a little. We all talked for a bit and then Rob and I bundled up the kids and said good bye in a round of hugs and kisses and Merry Christmas-es; leaving her with her next wave of guests and chances to brag on her babies and ask about theirs.
This is how I most remember her. Always sharing stories and pictures, laughing, chiding, and absolutely loved by everyone who knew her. Thrilled to get a simple box of chocolate covered cherries even though she shouldn't eat them. Fondly reminding someone that the simple token of love from a decade or from five decades ago was still much loved. She never forgot a kind deed or a gesture and appreciated each gift, each visit, and each person as the treasure they were. With any luck, that's a family trait, too.