Monday, May 18, 2009

Grandma and Me

I haven't yet written about Grandma.

Mom gave me this picture a couple of weeks ago and I added it to my blogger posts but didn't have time (or maybe didn't have words) to finish what I wanted to say. I saved it for a future time and have come back to look at it several times, but still haven't written.

This picture was taken in June of 2006. We were celebrating Grandma's birthday. She was 95. There was a reception for her and many of her grandchildren were there to celebrate with her. There were also her nieces and nephews whom she rarely saw. Everyone was fussing about her and making sure they got to talk with her. She was completely in her element. This picture was taken at the end of the celebration and it is easy to see what a wonderful day she'd enjoyed.

I'm the oldest of many grandchildren. My sister and I enjoyed a very special relationship with Grandma because starting when I was nearly two and Annette was still a baby, Grandma cared for us while Mom worked.

Mom's 9 - 5 was really more like 7- 3:30 in those early years. She worked for the same company that employed Grandpa, so if I managed to be up early enough, I'd be there when he came bringing Grandma to take care of us and taking Mom along with him to work. Sometimes we were at Grandma's house on the farm, but I don't really have an accurate memory of how frequently we were in each place.

My memories from those early years are mostly short snatches of things.

I remember good smells from the kitchen,

being up in the early morning darkness and crying about Mom leaving for work, but not really feeling so terribly sad because Grandma was such a comforting presence.

walking to the nearest neighbor (at that time we lived in rural Moundridge), maybe to get eggs, but also so that Grandma could visit the neighbor lady while we played with the nearly adult daughter who had Down's Syndrome, and loved playing with dolls like we did.

We spent a lot of time in rockers. At Grandma's house it was a wooden rocker with a green upholstered seat and generous arm rests. In that rocker we heard Bible stories. Grandma sang with us, songs like "Gott Ist Die Liebe", "God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall", and many others. When Annette grew out of the baby stages, we would each have an arm rest to sit on. We would pretend to be riding our horses while Grandma provided the rocking motion. Usually we were riding to Hillsboro, the town closest to the farm where Grandma and Grandpa lived.

I remember nap time being pretty important, and as I began to outgrow it, I remember Grandma sitting beside me trying to help me relax by running her fingers lightly across my back and arms. I did relax, but I didn't want to sleep because I loved the way that felt.

We would go visiting. Grandma loved being with people and made a point of visiting people who could not always get out because of health or disabilities.

* * * * *

There are a lot of other memories from that time that involved our whole family as well as aunts, uncles and cousins at Grandma's farm. Sometimes if my dad had to work all night, Mom would take us to sleep over at Grandma's house.

Grandma and Grandpa had a big garden and the whole family would get together to dig potatoes or harvest the sweet corn.

There was a barn, and back down behind it there was a shallow creek that had sun fish living in it.

Grandma's house had a wild beehive on one side of it.

The driveway to Grandma's house was very long and winding. I don't think you could even see the house at all from the road.

One night all the aunts and uncles were at Grandma's house to see their newest purchase, their first TV. I don't think we had one at our house yet, so this might have been my first introduction to that infamous invention.

* * * * *

If I continue to put all my many memories of Grandma here, this will be endless, so I'll cut things shorter.

As I grew up my contact with Grandma became more limited to holidays and family gatherings, but our relationship continued to have a special closeness. As my children came along things got even more busy, but I wanted more contact to be part of our lives.

When we started the kids in piano lessons I would often stop to see Grandpa and Grandma while I waited.

Then we decided to home school. One of Ben's projects was to interview Grandpa and Grandma about their childhoods. We started going there every week, beginning before Tim was born in 1993. Those weekly visits continued with a few interruptions until Grandma died last March. I took the kids when they were young, and later went by myself, and at the end began bringing Laura, when she and Greg moved to Newton. When Luke was born, as soon as we could we started bringing him to see Grandma too. Even when she was too sleepy to visit with us at all, she would often light up if she heard the baby noises of her great great grandchild.

That 95th birthday was our last big party before Grandma broke her hip. After that she did not walk again, and upon release from the hospital, lived in the health care wing of a nearby home for the elderly. It became much harder for her to visit with us. She was so tired and would sleep much of the time we were there. Even when she was awake, it was harder for her to converse very much. Often she would listen in and fade in and out of sleep while I visited with Mom who spent a lot of time caring for Grandma.

At the end, when she was failing, Mom called one day. She encouraged me to go that day, because Grandma was wakeful and clear thinking. I quickly called Laura and we took Luke along. Grandma was so amazing. She and I talked about the times we remembered from when I was tiny and she cared for Annette and I. At one point she sighed and said, "Those were such good times." Yes they were.

That day she talked with Luke again. She sang Gott Ist Die Liebe with us. We laughed together. Uncle Bob took pictures.

That was her last really lucid time. She died a couple of weeks later, on March 6, 2009.

I love this picture because it is so accurate at showing how I remember those years of visiting Grandma, and it was taken near the end of the time when she was able to be such an active participant in the visit. By the time this picture was taken we already had so much history together.

Some pictures really aren't worth a thousand words, but this one makes up for them. Maybe someday I'll get more of those words written down.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fun with Luke

This is just a blatant grandparent post. Luke is with us a couple of afternoons each week so we have lots of time with him. Here he is sharing strawberry jelly bread with Grandpa.

We have had some big rains and one day Laura thought Luke might enjoy playing in the puddles in our yard. In the picture it looks like he might be having fun, but actually he couldn't enjoy the sensation of grass and mud on his feet. He has always worn shoes outdoors, since he started walking after it was already cold. Now it doesn't feel right to him to be barefoot.

Since he didn't like being in the puddles we found a puddle he could put his hands into without getting the rest of himself wet. He DID end up getting the rest of himself wet with his vigorous splashing, but then it was by his choice, not ours.

Here are Laura and Luke on Mother's Day weekend. We were just getting ready to walk to a family reunion nearby.

Here we are walking to the reunion. We are supposed to look like a band. I'm in the middle with Luke, Ben and Tim are on the left side and Laura and Greg are on the right, carrying freshly baked shortcakes. Andrea took the picture.

Friday, May 08, 2009


After a very difficult day a couple of weeks ago I woke up in the wee hours and couldn't go back to sleep. After an hour, Chuck woke up and realized I was still stewing about the day before. He gave me some advice.

He sees his world as having lots of boxes. There are boxes for each of the people that are important in his life. There are boxes for the farm, for running in the morning, for good meals, for happy memories. When one box gets too overwhelming or demanding or depressing, he visualizes closing it and opening a different one that is more healing or rejuvenating.

So the other night when things got very frustrating for me again, I went outside to take a break. I'd forgotten about the boxes. I paced the driveway and drank my soda and paced and sipped. Finally I went to him and complained about my frustration. Taking a break was not helping at all. Walking didn't help. Getting out of the house didn't help. Sipping pop didn't help. I was still furious.

"Close the box," he said. "Open a different one."

What a concept. I got my dog and chose to "open her box". We strolled around the yard and I breathed the spring air and fully enjoyed the moment. Better than therapy.