Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Whee, Public Speaking!

As is usually the case, I'm up until o-dark-thirty finishing my work for tomorrow. Here's what I'll be saying at my Grandma's funeral, more or less.

It has been hard for me to decide what I wanted to say about Grandma today. The person who moved back to Minnesota two years ago bore little resemblance to the woman I used to visit during summer vacation. The person who left us a week ago, even less so.

Grandma and Grandpa left Minnesota about ten months after I was born -- I'm told I shouldn't take it personally. I like to think this distance was more of a blessing than a curse. I may not have seen my grandma often, but I have many happy, special-occasion-type memories of her, laughing and happy, to hold on to.

It seems fitting, knowing my extended family as I do, that many of these memories have to do with food. One of my earliest memories of Grandma and Grandpa's house in the desert is of feeding the roadrunners in the yard. They knew exactly where they could count on getting their next meal, and we knew where humans stood in Grandma's feeding hierarchy: there were always frozen hamburger balls made up for the birds. The rest of us just had to hope.

Unless we wanted ice cream. As I grew older, I noticed some trends in the epic grocery shopping trips Grandma would take us on. At first I thought she just liked standing in the freezer aisle in the grocery store for the coolness. I soon found that my grandparents were a force to be reckoned with when it came to their ice cream treats. Drumsticks, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches -- which, and how many? These were vital questions that demanded serious answers, no matter how long you had to stand there freezing your taste buds off for them. Grandma was more than up to the task. She was not very pleased, though, when most of her stash was eaten by hollow-legged eleven-year-olds who weren't used to 120 degree summers.

Thankfully, Grandma was willing to forgive ice cream thievery. She was also willing to indulge the whims of her visiting grandchildren -- yet another hidden perk to that great spatial separation! One steamy day toward the end of a long visit, when swimming in the pool had gotten old and I was driving everyone nuts complaining about the heat, someone suggested we conduct an experiment to find out exactly how hot it was. Somewhere there are photos that were taken about twenty minutes later of mom, Grandma, and me laughing and standing next to our "test subject" -- an egg that had been cracked onto the pavement. While it wasn't exactly fried, it certainly was cooked, and we were all in much better humor.

It's hard to believe that so many of the sweaters and baby clothes that have been passed down from one grandchild to another were created in this same heat. My very favorite memories of Grandma come from when she sat me down to teach me part of her craft. I remember watching her knit and crochet with envy, until she put a hook in my hand and taught me the mystery of the granny square. I remember feeling so special when she asked over the phone what colors I wanted in my afghan, and so loved when it arrived in the mail a few months later. I remember feeling proud when she offered to send me the pattern for a hat she had made, a tacit acknowledgment that I was skilled enough to follow the fairly complicated pattern.

It is these memories that made the past two years both joyful and painful, and these memories that mean she'll never really leave us. At the end she could not see enough to knit or crochet, but she certainly held on to her love of ice cream -- and I dare say if you told her you'd fried an egg on the sidewalk, she still would have laughed at you. And when my cousin B's daughter D is born next week, she'll be wrapped in a whole pile of knitted love, courtesy of Grandma.


I've not been posting because the past week has been devoted to funeral stuff, and we've been busier than one-armed paperhangers over here. Cleaning out grandma's room, moving her furniture, making funeral arrangements, making programs for the funeral, and attending already-scheduled family events have all taken precedence over blogging. And really? The family togetherness is KILLING ME!

I also seem to be taking grandma's death far worse than expected, as does my mom. We saw her so often that I think both of us were convinced that we'd be relieved when she was gone -- she was in so much pain, so unresponsive, and it was so hard to watch. Instead, it's like there's a gaping hole in our lives where taking care of here used to fit, especially for my mom. Yeah, there are other things that can fill in the hole, but it just doesn't seem right yet.

I am clearly waxing philosophical, which is a sure sign that I need to stop typing and say good night. Good night!

2 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

although I never met her, I would have to say that what you wrote will go over very well, I'm sure.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I'm very sorry about your grandmother. Even when you think it's "better" for them to go ahead and leave, it's like losing a limb. You have to learn to use the other one and it feels damn awkward. My heart goes out to you and your family and I hope the wonderful memories you have of her will warm you always. I love what you have written. Hang in there...it takes time. Sometimes a lot of it. (hugs)

1:04 PM  

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