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Lynette .......... Caedmon .......... Libby .......... Tom

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gram



My sweet 92 year old grandma passed on yesterday.  We called her the energizer bunny because she never seemed to stop moving...and going...and keeping on.  Even in her dying days, she exceeded the doctor's expectations.  "She'll never make the transfer to hospice," they said...but she did.  "She only last 5 more days," they said...she spent 11 more with my family.  

We had anticipated a difficult, potentially fatal, transition when she "retired" at age 76.  She had co-owned a grocery store for her entire life, working 6, sometimes 7 days a week.  Everyone fretted over what she would do with her now empty days.  Alas, she, like the energizer bunny, kept on ticking.  Trading days of stocking shelves and visiting with customers for days filled with great grandkids, senior citizen meetings and funerals.  Yes, funerals.  She actually enjoyed going to them.  There were weeks when she was at a visitation or funeral almost every day.  Those were my early post college years when I was inundated with weddings.  It was a big joke to her that I was going to so many weddings and she was going to so many funerals.  She had a big extended family and knew basically her whole community since she ran the local grocery store.  She also attend her yearly class reunion!  Since the class size was continually diminishing, they would combine several years, but it still always made me laugh that they were still getting together 70+ years later.

Gram used to join us for dinner on Sundays.  She'd eat two dinners every Sunday.  One at our house and one at my aunt's house.  Gram was all of 4'8" and tiny all around so it was always funny to think of her enjoying two big Sunday dinners.  Since Sunday was her only day off, she was likely feasting on family time more than roast beef.  She usually worked from about noon until 10 pm every day and actually, one Sunday a month she was working as well.  So those family dinners were her chance to visit with us.  One thing I remember about them was that she always had her purse full of hard tack candy (peppermints, butterscotch, etc).  My sister Amy is a picky eater, which Gram knew, but every Sunday without fail, Gram would attempt to bribe Amy to eat some food, offering a hard tack in exchange.  At the time, it drove us all batty, but now it is a sweet memory of who she was.

The other big family time when we were young was family vacations.  Gram was always willing to take some vacation time and tag along on the family vacations - to the beach, to historical sites, to visit family and friends.  Even though she wasn't working during those times, she didn't actually leave all the work at home.  She would bring a huge black garbage bag filled with coupon flyers...and her scissors.  While we travelled in the car to our destination, she clipped coupons.  I was never fully understood why she did that and how it worked but she did.  Also, when she was along, our travels also include grocery store tourism, i.e., stopping at random grocery stores along the way to see what ideas she could glean for her own.  The dads, in particular, groaned at each grocery stop request...us kids did, too.  Of course, now I find myself oohing and aahing over grocery stores and thinking how she'd love to check out some of our local ones, like Central Market with all of it's exotic food selections and fancy prepared foods counters.  

Sometimes our family vacations were directly related to the grocery store.  Like, the time we got to spend a weekend at a local resort (Seven Springs) for a grocery store convention or, the time my parents joined my Gram on a trip to Brazil for another convention.  I guess the grocery store life does have its perks!

Family vacations also gave Gram a chance to let loose and have fun.  I remember one particular vacation to Michigan.  I was junior high age so Gram must have been in her mid-60s.  We visited friends and family.  While visiting a friend in Holland, Michigan, we went to a Dutch village.  Part of the program was a dancing/demonstration thing and before I knew it Gram was dragging my awkward, embarassed 12 year old self onto the dance floor.  She had the time of her life being part of the show!  I wanted to melt into the floor.  On that same visit, Gram joined the kids in horseback riding and trampoline jumping.  I always thought it was pretty special that my grandma was such an active, healthy lady.  Not too many of my friends could boast a trampoline jumping grandma!

On another trip to a family wedding, it was just my mom, Gram, and I.  On the way home, we needed to get something to eat and Gram insisted that truck stop food was the way to go - good and cheap!  Our waitress was a large, tattooed lady who was missing a few teeth.  I was more than a little frightened and I think my mom was to.  We laughed afterward at the memory.  And for the record, the food wasn't that good.

Speaking of weddings, they were Gram's favorite events (next to funerals).  She was quite the dancer and she would spend the entire wedding on the dance floor.  There were many weddings where she was the first one on the floor and the last one off.  Even at my wedding, when she was 85 years old, she spent much of the time dancing.  I've been told that she was quite the dancer in her youth.  

For Gram, family was the most important part of her life.  She loved to write and receive letters from relatives.  She always carried a stack of pictures in her purse so she could update friends and family on all of the special people in her life.  Her house was filled with pictures, old and new, of family.  For holidays, there was always a card in the mail with a quick update on life.  Sometimes it was so quick that half a thought was missing, but you always knew she was thinking of you!  As she aged and writing became more difficult and illegible, I offered to type one Christmas letter that could be copied for all of her cards.  For my grammatically correct self, it was always hard to type her words and not try to embellish and correct.  I remember the first few rounds were typed on my Brother word processor before computers were even common household item!

Gram lived in the same house for most (maybe all) of her married life.  It was built in the days of corner grocery stores...way before the mega stores we are accustomed to now.  For that reason, part of the house was a big open room, "the store room."  The original intention was that it would be the neighborhood store, but that dream was never realized.  As a child, the store room was our playroom. Anytime we stopped at grandma's, that's where we went.  For a long time there was a pool table in there.  We never used the cues, but we always had fun pushing the balls around the table.  In the eighties, someone came up with the idea that my widowed grandma might find her house too big one day and it was decided that the store room should be converted to a one bedroom apartment.  My grandma finally moved into the apartment last year.  Prior to that, it was the "grandchild suite."  Of her 8 grandchildren, at least 5 of us have lived their during our adult lives.  Two, with their entire families!  It basically had a revolving door.  Once on person moved out another was usually in line to move in.  And, when Gram did move into the apartment, my sister moved into her house.  She has had no shortage of neighbors in the past 20 years!  

And truly, Gram didn't consider us neighbors.  We were more like roommates.  Of course, we wanted to be neighbors and it could get frustrating at times, but looking back, it's funny to think of some of the "perks" of living next door.  We all were regaled with Lawrence Welk on Saturday afternoons.  Gram would turn up the volume on the TV really loud so she could hear it...and so could we.  If you happened to peek in on her during one of those times, you'd find her doing the polka across the 60s green threadbare carpet of her living room!  When I lived there, I would get Saturday morning football updates for all of the local high schools - the one I graduated from, the one where we lived and the one where I taught.  She could never understand why I wasn't more enthusiastic about football.  When my cousins lived there with thier children, there was never a shortage of great grandma food - oatmeal cookies, Lorna Doones...The kids loved it.  Their moms, not so much.  

I'm sure I could dig up a dozen more memories - marigolds, SNPJ, Eva, the farmer's market...Gram lived a long and vibrant 92 1/2 years.  She loved her family and her friends.  She loved life!  And she was much loved.  


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