Road Trip: Remembering Grandma

Last night I returned home from a road trip to Arizona with my mom and sisters, Jenny and Kathy. We made the trip in a large pickup truck (Jenny drove), to my grandmother's memorial, with a side trip to pick up an antique secretary cabinet and various mementos of my grandma's.

The service was lovely, in a garden with a bubbling fountain. The birds flew all around; one perched on a bush as if listening. Pictures of my grandma as a beautiful young woman were set up at the entrance.

At the age of 2, Grandma moved with her parents and brother from Kansas to the Arizona desert to homestead. Her mother (my Great Grandmother) taught school in the one-room school house and owned and ran the general store. Life was hard in the small ranch town. It was remote and often lonely. My own mother was brought up in the same small town and couldn't wait to leave it for the big city (where she later met my dad while the two were in radio broadcasting school), although a part of her belongs to the desert.

Grandma had four children of her own, 13 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 3 great great grandchildren. (She was 98.) But she actually had a life outside of her family. She was very influential in her church and led a life of ministering to others. She painted and wrote poetry; was even published in national publications. Like Elvis Costello, she stood for "peace, love and understanding." Grandma loved animals and believed in their protection; she was a vegetarian.

Growing up, I saw her as a sweet woman, kind of vague, who would send us Christmas packages containing strange tchotchkes and giant underpants. One time she sent my sister Jenny a ring with a picture of a pot plant on it. Grandma just thought it was pretty. Grandma was love, she didn't judge, and that is what will stay with me.

At the service, I was able to see my grandmother as a fully-formed person in the memories of those who worked with her and learned from her. Sometimes it's hard to imagine our parents and grandparents occupying roles other than those that we know them in.

We visited with relatives we hadn't seen in years, had a great little restaurant reunion, then picked up the next day and headed off to the storage unit with my Uncle Lynne. It felt a little strange going through what was left of Grandma's things. She'd divested herself of her belongings as much as possible and this was what was left; the remains of a life in one small storage space. Mom chose two of her oil paintings and I have some of her watercolors. But the real find, I couldn't leave without them: 3 see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil white ceramic kitties. They're so Grandma and I'll treasure them.

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It was so much fun being with my mom and sisters. Jenny told us stories, and Kathy and I laughed until we couldn't breathe. We enjoyed each other so much.

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