My paternal grandparents have been gone now for almost 15 years. With being #14 of 23 grandkids there wasn't a lot of one on one time with them. Not to mention I think with 9 kids they didn't appreciate the noise anymore. I have a lot of memories of them but more as a large family of kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. I love and miss them still.
That isn't the story with my maternal grandma, Betty. We (my sisters and I + Cousin Sarah) spent a lot of time over at my grandparents house. They were at most of my activities and they were an integral part of my childhood. With only 4 grandkids for most of my childhood they had more time/energy to spread around.
It's been over two weeks now since my grandma passed away, from ALS. It has been a sad time for our family to lose such a beautiful woman. I am not a speaker (in fact it's a huge phobia of mine) but was compelled (and nominated) to speak on behalf of my family at her funeral. I am posting the letter I wrote and read at her funeral here so you may know how much we miss and love her.
March 23, 2011
I never, ever wanted to write this letter. The time has come to say goodbye, but before our “final” farewells, I wanted to tell you what you’ve meant to your grandkids and great-grandkids.
I didn’t realize that the lessons you were teaching me as a child would so drastically influence me as a woman and a mother. Not many a night goes by when I don’t tell Evie “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, and if they do…hit them with a shoe and say ‘I DON’T want to sleep with you.’” Even now I remember your voice as you repeated those words to us. I also remember so vividly cuddling up in bed during our weekends together, all of us sisters fighting for a spot next to you for the reading of our favorite book “Christina Katerina and THE BOX.”
How we looked forward to those weekends!! Days filled with learning to bake bread and biscuits by hand. Eating lasagna and enjoying cottage cheese. However, even your admonishment that cottage cheese eaten with peaches “all gets mixed together in your stomach,” that still cannot convince me that it is a tasty combination.
When we weren’t eating or cooking, you taught us how to play “Hide the Thimble.” Someday I will teach this game to my babies. Of course, their first words will be “what’s a thimble?” I imagine it will be akin to your confusion over computers and fish screen savers. You installed in us a love for games…especially Scrabble. It is because of this that not only is my spelling typically top notch, but I can and usually do beat my husband soundly.
Honestly, I’m not one for gardening. This is unfortunate as I would love to have your green thumb. Your garden flowers amazed one and all. But my favorite gardening moments were also the tastiest… mmmm—strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and sugar snap peas. We loved not only the task (one strawberry for the bucket, one for me), but the end results of our hard work…pies and jellies. One of my biggest regrets is never learning to do this with you. I will attempt it this summer on my own and will know great sorrow with each berry I cut…missing you, missing our time together. The only thing that I will not miss from your garden is that horrible, vicious rooster. I still remember the day he attacked my feet with his sharp beak, but you were just as quick to defend me. I think his head permanently bore the marks of your cane, though not enough of them to prevent you from winning grand champion at the fair. Unfortunately he didn’t know that that fair would be his last shining moment, before he became dinner.
In your basement we became waiters, business owners, florists, and piano players. In fact, most often when I pass a piano I cannot do so without plunking out the few notes that you taught me. A few notes to accompany you…a duet that will forever be a part of my heart.
Every time I came to visit in the last few years, I’ve been tempted to take a walk to the “crick” in the woods. Remember how you used to take us there and let us strip down to our undies and “swim” in the “deep” waters. Okay, in reality it would probably only reach my ankles, but it was deep enough for us to have hours of fun before the mosquitoes drove us into the house. I haven’t been to visit it because I like to think of it as our own secret garden, a little treasure trove of memories, laughter, and adventure. A place that will become a legend to our babies.
Right now your great-grandbabies are too young to have developed memories of you. Therefore, it will be up to Keesha, Jessie, and I to pass on your legacy of selflessness, gentleness, and love. They will know you when we read to them, put together puzzles, teach them Scrabble, mixing, cutting out, and decorating sugar cookies, introducing to them Lincoln Logs and tinker toys. Some day they will learn all about the inventions of the past like record players. Did you know that the Sesame Street record we about wore out can now be bought on CD?
Someday they will ask why I am always saving the stamps from letters, and I will be able to show them the stamp collection that you started for us, and someday they too can call themselves philatelists. Remember how you helped me introduce this term for stamp collector to my fellow 4-Hers?? As afraid as I was to present my demonstration, I was so proud to tell others of this collection and show off my crazy stamp collecting skills.
Dress up is already a favorite activity in our household, and I know that there will be giggles and lots of twirling in your square dance dresses. Remember how we begged to wear them every time we visited? I may have to take a twirl in them again as well; their fun is not hampered by age. We have so many memories of you, Grandma that our babies will begin to believe that they knew you. They will call the Jello salad we make “pink stuff” and request quick rolls every Easter just the way we did from you.
It has only been a few days since you left your earthly body, Grandma, but the magnitude of your departure has put a Grand Canyon-size hole in our lives. These past few days have made me realize how often I do things with and for my babies that you did for us.
I’ve looked at all the pictures of you as a baby, a teen, a woman in love, a friend, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother that the ache in my heart only grows larger. You are loved and you are missed, BUT your love and legacy is being passed on to future generations. And while I would give just ONE more day to tease you about how short you are getting, or to attempt to beat you at Scrabble, or to discuss every little thing—even if it meant listening to that static-filled radio station playing 1940’s music or Lawrence Welk hour—your legacy is a thing that I would wish for myself when I pass from this life. YOU have made us better women, friends, sisters, daughters, mothers, and wives. Thank you, Grandma. We love you! We miss you!
Tawnda, Keesha, Jessie and all future generations