Friday, September 18, 2009

My Grandma

A month ago I was given one of the greatest honors of my life. The opportunity to give the eulogy at my grandmother's funeral.  My grandma was Jean Anne Wilkie Stevens and she lived 85 years.  She was my father's mother.  She had lived across the street from my parents for the last 7 years and I have grown to love her more and more in those last years. Here are some of the things I said about her.

For most of my life I thought of my grandma in a singular aspect. She was my fathers mother…the mother of our family. Through her came my father and aunt, and then allowed the life of my cousins and I, and now finally  my children and my cousin’s children. Fourteen people have lived because she provided the opportunity for them to live, and more will because of her. 

However, more than giving us physical life and birth, she has given us something more substantial. She has given us, and many others around her, the joy of living life.

 In many ways it was her example, how she lived her life in joy and love.  For some, she provided money when they needed it. For others it was one on one teaching or showing them a skill or a form of art or helping them make a living. And for a few it was daily care, mothering. In all of it there was joy. Joy in the task and joy in her heart. 

As a little girl I remember that my Grandma Jean was a classy lady, she exuded beauty and femininity.  She and our Grandpa Stub took us to fine restaurants.  She made us fancy dresses and tried to teach us how to hold ourselves in a feminine way.  She thought this was important, to help us experience things that would help us grow as young ladies and gentlemen.

I can remember vividly a particular meal at a very nice restaurant and my first taste of caviar… I was perhaps 10 or 11 years old… lets’ just say that I didn’t fully appreciate the experience or have the pallet to enjoy that delicacy. But, my grandparents enjoyed treating us to the experiences of this world and sharing the fun of learning and growing.

The thing I am most thankful for my grandma giving me was the ability to learn and most specifically to read.  As a little girl I struggled to learn in general. It was apparent that this learning disability wasn’t something that my parents could put a little work into to help me overcome. Both my Grandma Jean and Papa Stub helped my parents pay for a wonderful tutor that helped me weekly for 7 years.

I know that my Grandma loved reading, she always had her nose in a book and I am sure she wanted to share this passion of hers with me.  Even as she grew older, and her mind not as sharp, she still tried to read daily.  I know that books became confusing to her, but she always had a remark to make about the latest book she was working though.  I am beyond thankful for her sharing the love and ability to read with me in the most tangible of ways. 

One thing I always loved about my grandma was her laugh. It was a sweet, hardy and joyful laugh wrapped all in one. And it was always readily given. 

Our family is known for it’s strange, somewhat morbid sense of humor. My grandma wasn’t an exception.  In fact, I am sure we all got it from her.  She loved jokes, but even more loved to laugh about the obserdities of life. Life’s situations would catch her funny bone and cause her to laugh until she would cry.  This remained strong in her until the end! 

She would laugh about the silliest things, like the fact that her five-foot height meant that she could buy Capri pants and they would be the perfect length to be regular long pants on her short frame. 

She took great joy in her great grandchildren; she loved to laugh at the funny things they would say and do. One evening we were picking her up at her house to go to dinner and my 3-year-old daughter said, “I like that old lady!”  When we told grandma, she chuckled and chuckled and would often refer to herself around Addie as “That old lady.” 

Even when her mind or memory would fail her, her sense of humor got stronger!  Not too long ago she must have dreamt she was talking to my cousin Michelle. She told my mom the interesting news that Michelle had learned to knit using her feet.  My mom knew this could not be true, and let it pass with a polite…”Is that so…” However, later my dad questioned her on it and she first said, “Oh, no! I couldn’t have said such a thing!” and promptly laughed herself silly over the thought of someone knitting with their feet!  We all laugh because she loved to laugh!  And her ability to laugh at herself served her well in life.

In many ways I feel as if I have gotten to know my grandmother more in the last 10 years of my life than I had in the previous 20. In the past 10 years she taught me to knit. She visited Tennessee when I had my first daughter and then Durango when I had my son. We talked more on the phone and I loved to walk across the street to see “Nanny” with my children when we visited Denver.

We talked about cloth diapering and how it has changed in 60 years. We talked about books, food and art.  We laughed, ate good food and found out we have a lot in common: we both love to travel, foreign cultures, knitting, enjoy a good cup of coffee, ice cream and a nice sweater, we love to read and wonder what people do that don’t read. We both have opinions about children, though they are different. We both think my dad is as silly as they come. And more than that we just enjoyed each other.  What a sweet gift the last few years has given me!

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