Dearest Grandmother

When I was a child, before email existed, my mother would write letters to her parents, who lived almost 100 miles away.  We'd go visit a few times a year, but the letters were for times between visits.  She always addressed the letters "Dearest parents".  One time I asked her why and she replied that it was the manner of address her parents had requested.  I participated with my mother in her tradition, and would often include letters with my mother's.  When we got the fancy new Mac (SE II, I think), I would type my letters and print them on our fancy new dot-matrix printer.  I believe my grandmother said that she preferred handwritten letters, but to be honest I think the computer ones were far easier to read.

My grandparents had a country house on a huge lot when I was a child.  My grandfather raised horses and had a buggy that he let us ride.  He grew lots of his own produce.  They had a solar dehydrator for preserving food.  They had a hay loft, where we would enjoy sleeping when we spent the night at their place.  They would irrigate their lawn with the ditch that ran out front.  It was always fun to run around the flooded yard.  My grandfather made swings out of old tires and draped them from the big walnut trees in the side yard.

I remember spending the week there once, just me and them.  We played checkers.  My grandmother called me a sore loser when I lost to my grandfather, and I remember being offended by that, thinking that the appellation was unjustified.  My grandfather took me to the store when he needed to buy something or other for his farm, and let me pick out any candy I wanted to on the big wall of candies.  I chose lemon heads.  I ate some of them and left some of them there when I went home after the week was over.  My grandmother told me that she'd think of me every time she ate one of them.

My grandfather turned ill, as I recall rather suddenly, when I was a young teen/pre-teen.  He could no longer maintain the large plot of land they were living on, so they moved to a condominium across the street from my uncle.  It was a lot of fun visiting their new condo, and hanging out with my cousins who were a little younger than myself.  It was difficult and even scary at times to watch his health decline to the point where he couldn't even eat without assistance.  He passed away in 1997.  I remember reading his obituary and being amazed at what an accomplished man he was, and ashamed at not being aware of that previously.

Visiting my grandmother was always a special time.  One time she let me clean her windows for her.  It was a lot of fun because she had a squeegee and I was used to using paper towels or newspaper to clean my windows.  She told many stories about her childhood and what it was like growing up in the early 1900s.  She was very frugal from having survived through the Great Depression.  She wouldn't hesitate to scold me if I did something wrong.  One time I was showering and apparently I was taking too long in the shower.  She came right in to tell me that I was using up too much hot water.  I was embarrassed, but it was effective--I never took a long shower at her place again.

She was a strong-willed woman.  She was opinionated, but never made a fight about expressing her opinions or forcing them on other people.  She was very understanding and compassionate.  She had her way of doing things, and liked things to be done her way, but she was not overly rigid.  To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, she did it her way.

She kept at least a year's supply of food storage in her basement, and for quite a while it was all stuff that she had canned herself.  She made delicious meals that I looked forward to eating, and I made sure to tell her how good it tasted.  If I didn't, my mother would remind me to do so.

When I got my missionary call, when I was 19 years old, and at BYU attending my first year of college, she was the first person in my family that I told.  This is because she was a local number and my parents were long distance and I didn't have long distance capability in my dorm.  She was delighted to hear it.  She was happy to have me close by so I could visit often.

She turned 90 in 2006, which was shortly after I married my wife Karen.  It was fun to be part of those festivities.  My sister and I sang "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" as part of the music from the 30s part of the program.  We had so much of the family together at that time, and I know it was very special for her to have all of her children, grand children, and great grandchildren around her (although, it was also rather tiring as well).

The last 7 years I have grown slightly more distant from her because I've been living on the other side of the country.  I was in Knoxville for 6 years and now in Georgia.  I have visited as often as occasion has permitted, and it's always been a pleasure to see her.  The last time I visited, I took Conrad and introduced him to her.  She complimented him on his curly hair.  We showed her a picture of one time when he straightened it and she said "I bet you never did that again."  That made me smile.

She has left an indelible impression on my memories.  I appreciate the time that I had to spend with her, and think of her fondly.  She has been a good influence on me.  She has taught me things about being frugal, being honest, being loving and kind.  She was a great woman.

I received word that she passed away yesterday afternoon.  It is sad to think that I will no longer be able to sit in her living room and chat about things with her.  I will miss going on walks with her and playing checkers with her.  I loved her very much, and was greatly enriched by her love as well.