Monday, July 18, 2011

A Tribute

Many of you have expressed condolences on the loss of my grandmother; for your kind words, I am grateful.  Honestly, she was probably the most domesticated woman I've ever known. She taught me SO much, and I know she would get a kick out of this blog. If I could ever get her on the internet and show her how to get to it and read it!

The following is what I shared at her memorial service this past weekend. Thought some of you would enjoy reading it!

When I think of Grandma, I immediately think of her smile. Especially as I've been going through all of her old photos, I realize even more that her smile was really a constant. She had a lot to smile about! Likewise, there was a lot no one would blame her for not smiling over. But still, she smiled.

I remember her smile as she taught me how to swim. I was a chubby, awkward kid, and somehow she coaxed a great swimmer out of me, there in the community pool at Country Villa Estates, always with a crowd of exuberant retirees to cheer me on...or point out the "No Running, No Diving, No Splashing" or the other.

Bike riding, acorn hunting, fruit picking, plant watering, dinner cooking, video renting, ice cream dipping, My-Little-Pony playing, cartoon watching...Grandma smiled.

I remember that the first and only time I ever stole anything was actually from Grandma: a pack of Post-It notes and a blue ink pen. I had been using them while I was spending the night there with her and Grandpa, so when mom came to take me home, I added them to my bag of 6-year-old mind not really thinking much of it. But mom was mortified. She called Grandma and told her we were coming back, and I was forced to apologize for stealing. Then it was ME who was mortified! But I did it. And Grandma smiled.

The ONE time I remember Grandma NOT smiling was on a particular weekend that Brittany and I stayed the night with her...right after they had brand new carpet installed. Grandma had "overfed" us dinner, and then proceeded on to insist on vanilla ice cream covered in fresh strawberries. I did as well as a 9-year-old could to explain that if Brittany ate too much, she WOULD throw up, and if Grandma kept making her eat, it wouldn't be pretty at all. Grandma smiled, and handed over heaping bowls of the dessert. Brittany threw up. On the brand new carpet. Grandma DIDN'T smile.

There was a lot no one would blame her for not smiling over. All through Grandpa's illness, and when he died, and the hard time of adjustment afterwards, she simply pulled her family close and smiled.

When we moved her to Savannah Court...well...she didn't like losing her independence. And she made that very clear. Multiple times! But still...she smiled.

Early on, when I would come to see her here, she would pepper me with questions about college, work, what the future held. And she smiled.

As time passed, there were not nearly as many questions. But there were long, comfy cuddles on the couch, while we looked through album after album. And she smiled. Especially when she saw Grandpa's photo. Oh, how she smiled!

Even later on, as life began to take its toll on her body, and she needed help to do almost anything, still, as you walked into the room and she turned her attention on you, well, she might not know exactly who you were...but that smile. That smile lit up the room.

The first and only time Grandma ever met Jerrod was when we took her a Christmas present. It was one of our engagement pictures, framed and ready for her "picture shelf". She held it in her hands, studying it, and she looked at me with a question in her eyes. She never spoke, but all I had to do was show her my ring...and the smile that came over her face...I'll NEVER forget that smile.

I didn't see her at the very end. Mom asked me not to go, and her words were, "She can't even smile anymore. You don't want to remember her like this."

Mom was right. I didn't go. And I have no regrets about that. Because it was only for a little while that she didn't smile.

In that moment where Grandma was reunited with Grandpa, and they took the first stroll hand-in-hand that they had taken in 14 years, and she didn't have to simply gaze, lovingly touch and kiss a photo of him anymore...can you imagine the smile?

I can. She'll be the first person in heaven I look for. Maybe her body will be different, maybe she won't look quite the same to me. But I'll know her. I'll know her by her smile.

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