Sunday, February 17, 2013

Missing My Grandma

Grandma was everything a Grandma should be, and more. For the first 13 years of my life, I was the only grandchild on that side of the family, and even when my cousin came along, I still remained the only granddaughter. For about as long as I can remember, Grandma lived within close walking distance from my house, so I saw her and Granddad nearly every day of my life growing up. From the time my mom went back to work after her maternity leave, my days were spent at Grandma's house. I never even went to preschool -- who needed preschool when you had Grandma?! She more than prepared me for kindergarten!

She and Granddad were essentially the reasons I grew up in Bartlett. Before I came along, my parents were contentedly living close to work in High Point Terrace, and my grandparents were in Bartlett. But soon enough, they realized they were making the trip to and from my grandparents' house to tote me around, so they eventually just moved us out there. 

On my very first day of school, I went to my grandparents' house first to open up some surprise presents and take pictures. School was in easy walking distance of their house, so Grandma and Mom walked with me to school that day. When school would let out, there was Grandma, waiting nearby to walk with me back to her house, where I'd stay until Mom came to pick me up after work. During recess, I often contemplated sneaking off campus and over to Grandma's, where I knew I'd have much more fun! Even when I was in high school and fully capable of staying at home by myself, I'd still head over to Grandma's after school every day (after driving by my house to check the mail and see if I had received anything pressing that was college-related) until Mom would get home from work. 

Over the years, she was my constant companion and confidante. When I designed clothes for my teddy bear, she'd sew them for me based on my drawings. We'd take walks together, and before I could manage that, she'd pull me around with her in a red wagon. While she was cleaning house, I'd go into her formal dining room and pretend to be a princess at a royal ball. I even had my very own room at her house! An artist herself, she helped cultivate my love for art. She taught me letterings and calligraphy. At Christmastime, we'd undertake projects together like making gingerbread houses and decorating everything in the house. When I had a school project to complete that was remotely artistic, I would report to Grandma's house to work on it. She always kept an arsenal of super cool art supplies that I had access to whenever I would like. Mom often said I had much more in common with Grandma than she did, since both of us were so creative and had such similar personalities.

Any sense of style I have came directly from Grandma. Long before she was a Great-Grandma or a Grandma or even a Mom or a wife, she had been a window display designer at a couple of big department stores downtown, and she knew just how to put together cute and classy ensembles. I absolutely adored her old photo albums, and some of my favorite pictures were of her in the dresses that came to her stores from Hollywood just in time for the Cotton Carnival each year. These dresses had been in big movies and musicals (I remember Anchors Aweigh was one), and Grandma and her friends would try them on and take photos in them. She looked like a movie star. When I knew her, each Sunday, she looked brilliant in her dress-up apparel at church. I always loved poring through her vast jewelry collection ("It's just costume," she'd say -- but that never mattered to me!) and listening to the stories she'd tell me about how she came to obtain each piece.

Grandma never missed a dance or piano recital. On competition days, she would leave with us at the crack of dawn and stay out with us all day, helping keep track of all my stuff and making last-minute repairs on costumes as needed. She taught me how to apply eyeliner and how not to cry when having my mascara done (that used to be a really traumatic procedure for me on competition days!).

Any friend of mine was an adopted grandchild of Grandma's. Jennifer was a frequent guest, and when she'd come over we'd choreograph elaborate dance routines and then perform them for our eager audience (Grandma) on Grandma's stage, AKA the raised entry hall. Later on, when a bunch of my friends were married and had started having babies, Grandma would ask me to get them to bring the babies by so she could meet them. Whenever they did, she was always smitten. She was so good with babies. When my friends asked what they should call Grandma, her answer was always the same: "Grandma." Just about a month ago, Chris said that she has been an excellent second Grandma to him, since he no longer has a living grandparent. When I mentioned this to Mom earlier this week, she said that Grandma had told her a while back, "I really love Chris. I don't think he has a Grandma. I want to be his Grandma."

She indulged my every phase. When I was in fifth grade and wanted nothing but to listen to Ace of Base songs all day long, she gladly went along with it. She could probably have sung any of their songs on request, because she heard me listen to them so much! When I was much younger and made up my mind to collect as many Cherished Teddies as humanly possible, she would help me achieve that goal any chance she got. Just recently I even found a relic of my Beanie Baby days at her house: a notebook I had made with info about each of them. When I really wanted The Bodyguard soundtrack back when that was all the rage, she surprised me with it for Christmas. When I wanted to watch movies with her during long summer days, we'd break out the Shirley Temple classics and watch them together. Granddad would take us shopping each week, and Grandma would take careful note of what I liked, and then surprise me with my favorite things for my birthday and Christmas -- and random other occasions, too! We'd play games together and have the most intense Chinese Checkers tournaments. She even let me try to teach her piano on one of my dad's keyboards. We'd have lessons once a week! When I was older I discovered how fabulous Audrey Hepburn was, and I came to discover that Grandma had been a fan far longer than I. Together we would watch classic movies like My Fair Lady, and she let me borrow a biography about her. When I tried to return it, she said she wanted me to keep it.

When I was in college, I would go home and visit her whenever I could, and she also came to see me. She loved coming to Tiger Tunes, and she continued to sew for me anything I needed -- particularly outfits for rush week and a suit I needed for my sorority. One time I left a gel pen out on the quilt on my bed, leaving a huge purple stain, and I knew just who to take it to: Grandma! She completely erased the stain -- I'll never know how! Just a couple of weeks ago, she fixed an applique flower on Tamsie's top that Tams had pulled apart, and Mom and I marveled at how it looked as good as new. Grandma could always do anything I needed her to do.

Any time I was sick during my school days, I knew Grandma would take excellent care of me. When I had to have my gallbladder out at 24, I knew what to do: go stay with Grandma during the days, until Chris was home. When my tonsils had to come out at 25, once again, I headed to Grandma's. She wouldn't let me lift a finger, and she laughed with me about having to eat cold noodle soup.

When Chris and I decided to move to Louisville, the hardest part would be leaving my parents and my Grandma behind. I will never forget staying at her house after our New Year's celebration in 2010, long after everyone else had left, crying and telling her how much I would surely miss her, but that I would be back to visit at every available opportunity.

 And I certainly was. She even came to visit me once, which is no small feat for an octogenarian! Once when I came home, I wanted to tell her in person that I was pregnant. So I went over to her house and asked her if we could celebrate Christmas that year sometime in January or February. Fully expecting her to ask why, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed when she said in her elegant Old Southern Gone With the Wind-style drawl, "Why sure." I gave her a minute, letting the silence soak in, but she wasn't questioning anything. "Don't you want to know why?" I asked. When she answered in the affirmative, I broke the news (the girls were due Christmas Eve so there would be no way I could be back in town for Christmas), and she was the happiest I think I'd ever seen her. The next time I came to town, for my baby shower, I stopped by Grandma's house and her entire dining room was filled to capacity with baby things -- all mine, Mom's and Uncle Myron's! This precious lady had saved EVERYTHING! She had told me she was gathering things together for me, but I had no idea THIS was what she had planned!

Her faith in the power of prayer was unwavering. She prayed for those babies my entire pregnancy. After each appointment, I'd call my parents to give them the updates, and then I'd immediately call Grandma. She wasn't even surprised I was having twins. "I figured you would -- all my first cousins did!" she'd say. She often told me that she had always wanted twins (a fact that Uncle Myron confirmed for me yesterday) but never got them. "Now you have them!" I'd tell her. "You just had to wait a few years!"

When they came early, she continued to pray, pray, pray. She even called up the pastor's wife and asked her to get all of her friends around the world praying. This was a big thing for my soft-spoken Grandma to do. I know that God certainly honored those prayers of faith!

She was thrilled that we were moving back to Memphis, and she wanted me to have our first-choice house. She loaned us the earnest money for the house, and later on, once we were in the house and I tried to repay her, she just took me to the furniture store and bought the rest of the suite for our guest room that she had started buying us back at my wedding. I've never met such a cheerful giver!

I can't even tell you how much I loved watching her play with the girls. She was such a natural, and they just loved her! We'd go visit her each Sunday after church, and that was the highlight of her week. (And mine.)

She loved Jesus and taught me so much about the way He loves us. A very precocious child, she became aware of her need for Christ as a 4-year old and eagerly accepted Him as her Lord and Savior early on! She was just absolutely beautiful inside and out, and she lived out her faith in Him in more real-life ways than I can ever list here. I'm beyond thankful that I will be able to spend eternity with her in His presence -- eternity! I will see her again. I'm sure we'll undertake many more creative projects together and share infinitely more laughs. But for now I just miss her. The girls' baby dedication is tonight at church, and I had assumed she would be there until Wednesday happened. She was really looking forward to being there, too, especially because the baby of one of my dearest friends/her adopted granddaughter is getting dedicated at the same service. I'm really going to miss her, but I will be taking comfort in the fact that she is with the One to whom we're dedicating the girls.

There's so much more that I could say about my Grandma. Having her around for the past 29 years has enriched my life more than I'll ever even know this side of Heaven.

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