Farewell, Grandma


My grandma, Helen, passed away on Wednesday night at 84 years old.
She was known to be ornery, often cursing and speaking her mind.
Aunt Shirley told a recent story when she gave Grandma a bit of her soda.
Grandma spilled most of the drink on herself,
looked at Aunt Shirley with a look of disgust and said
“What the hell!” like Aunt Shirley had thrown the soda on her chest.

But I also knew Grandma’s loving and caring side.
In high school I often shared my teenage troubles with her:
What I wanted to be when I grew up, plans for college,
boy troubles.
On one trip to Missouri, I rode in Grandma’s car
while Mom, Dad, and Amanda rode in the car in front of us
(we had walkie talkies to communicate bathroom stops)
sharing stuff I never thought to tell my parents.
Grandma listened carefully and gave me her honest opinions.
I respected the perspective she shared.

So much of my childhood was spent at Grandma’s house.
Though I remember only bits and pieces of spending time with her,
she was always present
while my sister and sometimes cousins
spent time in the backyard playing soccer,
shooting baskets, raking up leaves just to jump in the pile,
or playing tag and hide and seek.
For a time, Amanda and I would collect nickels
to play games at Grandma’s.
We rode with Grandma’s sister, Aunt Mary, and Uncle Tex
to the bingo hall, though I don’t think we won much.

I remember Grandma’s demeanor and the way she laughed.
Her ankle pants and flats
worn with embroidered or puff painted shirts.
The way she would brush at her hair
with sort of a carefree, sporadic flick
and the way she moved across the room.
Her hair was always kept curled and dyed auburn.

The Grandma I knew always had a new craft she was working on:
Doilies or crocheted dolls, fabric flowers or quilted blankets.
She worked at George’s Steak House when I was younger
and then at True Value later on.
She came to most of our sporting events and band concerts.
She was there for birthdays, holidays, and get-togethers.

But her life and the life of my aunts, uncles, and dad
had always perplexed me.
Grandma lived somewhat like a gypsy,
it seemed to me that they never stayed in one place for long.
They moved from Iowa to California to Colorado to Texas
(I couldn’t tell you the correct order)
and back to Iowa a couple times in between.
She worked hard as a waitress – some would say one of the best -
to have a life for her 7 children,
and loved several men, including my grandfather who I never met,
Bill, who the family knows as Dad, and later Buster
(it’s rumored that even a famous musician was in the mix).
She dealt with the loss of her husband at only 52,
and the loss of two of my uncles.
She raised her children to have adventures
but mostly to value family.

At Grandma’s service last night, upwards of 150 people were present:
5 remaining children and their families,
which includes 17 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.
It was mentioned that Grandma would have loved to be the center of attention.
We all shared the feeling that her Alzheimer’s had taken away the Grandma we knew
as she became a different mom and grandma in her final years.
Though she may not have remembered who we were,
we knew she still felt the comfort of our presence
telling her stories about sewing projects and great grandchildren,
she would listen attentively, smiling and laughing.

Your memories, character and values live on through us, Grandma,
and you will be dearly missed. Love always.

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5 thoughts on “Farewell, Grandma

  1. Thank you sweet jennifer for putting in words your memories . You captured her spirit and personality to a T. Love you, aunt Shirley.

  2. Thank you for writing this Jennifer. Tristin and myself will always cherish our moments with Big Grandma – Love you all.

  3. I love the story! It is such an inspiration to her legacy . Shirley is an awesome person and probably get some of it from her mom !
    Paddy Barrett

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