Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rest in Peace, Grammy.

A week ago today, I was at my Grandma's funeral.  We called her Grammy because she insisted on it and it always embarrassed me a little bit when I was a kid.  Everybody else had a Grandma or a Granny, perhaps, but nobody else had a Grammy.  Then again, she wasn't really like other grandmothers.

Grammy's husband (and my Grandpa) died when I was three years old.  She lived by herself up until about nine years ago when she moved to a nursing home due to her declining health and creeping dementia.  She hated leaving her house, a home that she and her husband had built from the ground up when my mom was a child, but my mom was able to go and visit her nearly every single day, which I'm sure they both found comforting.

When Grammy died, I told mom that I would like to sing "Over the Rainbow" along with my sisters at the funeral.  As the day approached, however, we all decided that we didn't have enough time to prepare and so we played the Judy Garland version at the service.  I still wanted to contribute, however, so I asked permission to speak.

Here's what I wrote, what I read on that day:

As her three granddaughters, Jackie, Tricia, and I have a lot of special memories of Grammy.  After she passed, we spent hours sorting through boxes and albums of photos to display here today which gave us the opportunity reminisce and I thought it would be nice to share some of those memories here today.

For us, a day at Grammy’s house as a child would usually start with a lunch of carrot sticks, chow mein, strawberries from the patch in the yard, grapes off the vine, and a dessert of angel food cake and ice milk (NEVER ice cream).  In the winter, she always gave us hot chocolate with marshmallows and we would argue over who got the Swiss Miss mug.

As a child of the Great Depression, Grammy never threw anything away.  This worked in our favor, as we all enjoyed playing dress up after sifting through the clothes in the many full plastic bags scattered around the house.  We took the clothes home too, which I always considered cool since they were “vintage”.  As a result, I had more polyester in my wardrobe than any kid raised in the 90s had a right to have.

Even though she didn’t have cable or video games, we always found ways to have fun at Grammy’s house.  We’d play office, look through old photo albums, unfold the chairs and jump on the cushions, play outside with Alex the dog and Smokey the cat, nap in the hammock, or play the piano.  Grammy was an excellent piano player and we’ll never hear “Frosty the Snowman”, “Meet Me In St. Louis”, or “Ain’t She Sweet” without thinking of her.

Grammy loved flowers.  She taught us to garden and helped Tricia grow Cotton Candies.  When we went to Disneyland in 1991, she made us stop in front of every beautiful flower so she could take a picture.  Do you know how many pretty flowers are in Disneyland?  It’s a lot.  These arrangements here today are the perfect tribute.  She would have loved them.

Here are some other things that Jackie, Tricia, and I remember fondly about Grammy, in no particular order:

She loved giving and receiving bear hugs
She had a yellow car, which we spent all day watching her buy.
She loved places that offered a senior discount, like Days Inn and Hardee’s
She loved Wheel of Fortune and would play along, writing the puzzles in a notebook every night
She sewed little pouches into her bras and hid money in them when we traveled, which always made it a bit awkward when she insisted on paying for dinner.
She put campho phenique or aloe vera from the plant on whatever ailed us.
She didn’t use toothpaste, but brushed with baking soda.
She kept her house dark and wore special glasses to watch TV
She kept every letter she ever got.
She loved to cut out photos from magazines that she thought looked like us.  They usually didn't look like us.
She hated going to the doctor because she thought they made her sick.
She smelled like wood smoke from her fireplace.  From now on, whenever I smell wood smoke, I’ll know that it’s Grammy, saying hello. 

On Thursday, the day before she died, Mom and I were in her room, watching her sleep.  She hadn’t been responsive since Monday, but had been moving her arms and tossing her head back and forth a bit.  Grammy never liked bright lights, but there happened to be one directly above her bed that was on so that the nurses could see when they came to turn or check on her.  I said to Mom, “You know, I think that light might be bothering her,” and suggested we turn it off.  As soon as I pulled that chain, Grammy opened her eyes, looked right at us, and stretched her arms over her head.  She didn’t stay responsive for long, but we thought that, in case she could hear us, it might be nice to play her some music.  I took out my phone and looked up some of her favorite songs on YouTube and put it up to her hear.  She moved her arms like she was dancing.  I think she heard us.

She was a good grandma and we’ll miss her, but she was ready.  For years, she would say that she didn’t know why she was still here because she’d done all she’d wanted to do.  It’s comforting to know that she’s now at peace.  

We loved you, Grammy.   Thank you for all the wonderful memories.

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