|Valentines Day 2015.|
When I think about Grandma, I will always think about the ways her hands felt. They were soft with little calluses at the tips. She would grab your hand and pat it and squeeze it tight. Always. The last night that I got to hold her hand she still had an iron grip. She pulled me in tight. It made me smile when she started getting manicured nails at the age of 89 because they obviously made her uncomfortable because she said she couldn't work hard enough with those nails on. Grandma deserved to have pretty nails. She deserved to rest a bit but resting is not what Grandma did best. She hated being taken care of because it meant that she wasn't the one doing the care-taking.
Grandma was a problem solver and she loved fiercely. Grandma was a collector and rescuer of people. It didn't matter if she knew you for five minutes or a lifetime. She loved you and she wanted to solve your problems. If you weren't eating right, living right, or anything in your life was out of alignment she desperately wanted to take on your problem and fix it for you. She had her family and then she also had the vast group of people who became family because she loved them, served them and took them right into her home and heart. She changed people's lives.
It didn't matter how she was feeling, she wanted to sit at your bedside and have a minute by minute accounting of your bodily functions and food intake and then she would rearrange your kitchen. She would have given the shirt off her back if you asked her to. It didn't matter if you were her worst enemy or her best friend and you called to say you needed help. She would have dropped everything and come running. She was as genuine as it comes and she was a double edged sword. She never said anything behind your back, she told you to your face. I think Grandma's love language was problem solving. There was no issue too small or any hurt that she didn't want to bandage, mend and encourage you to "buck up" and get on with things. She grew up on a farm during the depression and World War II and she wanted to straighten every bent nail, rescue every last crumb and fix every last hole. Nothing was beyond hope.
Grandma could materialize a full meal out of the ether. It didn't matter if you showed up unannounced, she had a full dinner with four side dishes ready to be pulled together, a mysterious watermelon would appear from nowhere just for this occasion AND the meal would be nutritious according to Grandma's dietician standards. I REALLY wish that I had inherited this magic skill but it remains elusive to me. Breakfast at Grandma's house always had to have orange juice and milk lined up together next to a plate with something from every food group, a poached egg, crispy toast cut on the diagonal and two kinds of jelly. Many of my favorite memories are of she and I sitting in the two barstools in her kitchen while she chatted with me attempted to cajole me into trying new food and I ate bits of the four course breakfast she had prepared. Grandma was always exasperated with my picky eating habits and yet she never stopped making me a massive breakfast. She would sit with me for as long as it took and she would share stories about her life. Often these stories revolved around her diethetic internship in Boston (a highlight of her life) and the many horrors that could possibly befall me if I didn't learn to eat right. I have several favorites that I could probably recite word for word.
|Dancing December 2010|
|Working in LDS Hospital- second from the left|
|Wearing Grandma's wedding dress at her 50th wedding anniversary July, 2001|
|Playing dressup with Grandma's old glasses accessories|
She loved being a great grandmother and my kids have been so blessed to know her and be loved by her. These last few years of taking my kids to spend time with her in St. George have been very special for all of us. I was constantly finding her cuddled up with them reading or teaching them a game. She was always taking us on a walk to the park or planning a picnic at the splash pad, suggesting outings for us and keeping us moving. She would tell my kids to let me sleep in the morning and then purposely wake them up so that she could be with them and she let them get in bed with her and Bockum at night to watch tv and snuggle. I think it is a rare opportunity for kids to develop a relationship with their great grandparents and not only have my kids known Grandma, they love her deeply and know how much she loved them and knew them to the core. Seeing my kids with her has brought back a lot of special memories of my own childhood with grandma.
|Grandma with her Dad- Great Grandpa B at college graduation|
Grandma was very proud of her pioneer heritage. I'm pretty sure that there wasn't a person who ever spoke to Grandma without getting a lesson on Charles C. Rich. She would sit at the big table she used as a genealogy desk and pour through black and white photos with me and tell me stories while I colored with her highlighters as messed with her office supplies and typewriter. Grandma was a great storyteller. She wrote dozens of histories of her family members and ancestors. She was a good writer. It is a deep regret of mine that I could not manage to help her get her own life history self published before her death. I have it. I will finish it. I promise Grandma. I've got it recorded, I've got the pictures with all of her notes. I swear I will do it. She definitely would have typed it up herself except her computer wasn't cooperating.
|Serving a mission in Nauvoo, Illinois a highlight of Grandma's life|
Grandma and I spent years re-decorating a dollhouse that belonged to my aunts. We went to stores getting carpet and wallpaper samples for each room, made tiny furniture and sewed curtains. She never balked at my big ideas or said we couldn't try something. She was never irritated when my ideas would spiral into side projects like new heart shaped pillows for my own bed. When we were done decorating, she would let me climb the tree in the backyard and would be bring me snacks and lunch to eat while up in the branches. She loved Halloween costumes (as do I) and I wore many of the costumes she had made for her kids and for herself. I spent hours digging through the costumes and decorations in her crawl space.
Grandma was a wicked leg wrestler and threw me, my brothers and cousins like rag dolls when we wrestled her as teenagers at a family overnight trip. We had been scared to wrestle her because we were quite sure we were going to break her hip. Never underestimate her strength.
Grandma's love for her husband was the mainstay of her love for her family. Nearly 65 years of marriage did not dim the light of that love. She was constantly trying to do something to take care of Bockum. A few years ago when Bockum (my pet name for my grandpa) was in the hospital, Grandma told me she could be without him because they could not walk without each other anymore. They didn't use canes so they leaned on each other. They had become so inseparable that they could no longer even walk without each other.
A few years ago I had a hysterectomy and then wrote some of my feelings about the process on my blog. She called me after reading my post and we had a long talk. She told me that she didn't even realize she had been carrying around the pain of her own fertility struggles for 50 years and that she had just had a good cry for herself and for me. It was a problem she couldn't fix for me but I don't know if she ever knew how healing it was to connect to her that way. It was a pain she had never been allowed to talk about freely and didn't even know that she felt. She understood both my pain at the struggle and the intense joy and fulfillment I had gotten from my children and family. She had felt them both for herself and then again for me.
Second only to her love of family and the gospel was Grandma's love of country. Grandma was deeply patriotic and a well educated student of history. She was always halfway through some thick tome about either American history or the gospel. She had a real sense of civic pride and followed politics closely. She always volunteered in her local voting precinct and she loved to vote.
Grandma was a bit of an infofile and watched the news and read the newspaper religiously. Grandma always had an envelope full of articles that she had cut out for different people to read. She tracked the weather more closely than most meteorologists. She was always interested in science and the way the world worked. She would always attend grandparents day with me and my brothers all the way through highschool and she made sure that she got to go to chemistry or physics class with us so that she could pepper the teachers with questions. She was a lifelong student and always wanted to know more. I'm certain that there is an interview process happening right now on the other side of the veil and I think that Grandma is asking most of the questions. She is probably supervising a few things that need to be straightened out. I have no doubt that she went right to work. Sergeant Grandma will never be totally at rest.