Saturday, October 14, 2006

Remembering Grandma Emma

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things was going to visit my Grandparents. Grandma Emma always had a plastic container of freshly baked brownies stored on the top of her metal kitchen cabinet. Rarely did I ever go to visit Grandma’s house and discover an empty brownie container. On those very rare occasions, Grandma would send me downstairs to the basement to sort through the big chest freezer and choose a frozen Sara Lee dessert. We didn’t have Sara Lee desserts in our freezer at our house. Probably because my Mother is a most excellent cook and made all of her desserts from scratch. It still was a special treat to eat a piece of frozen Sara Lee cake. The hardest part was waiting for it to thaw out enough so you could slice into it because back in those days, we didn’t have the convenience of a microwave oven.

Some other things I remember were the whole family gathered together with card tables set up in Grandma and Grandpa’s living room. All of my Dad’s aunts and uncles would congregate together and play cards. Usually Canasta or Gin Rummy. Grandma Emma and Grandpa Bill were Presbyterian so it was okay to have playing cards in their house. My other Grandma Amelia was Pentecostal and cards were nowhere to be found in her house. Grandma Emma taught me how to play Spite and Malice - a fun card game with two decks of cards - for two people. We would play together for hours. She also played endless games of Scrabble with me and almost always won, until I started to get older and smarter - then I would win a lot too. I learned some great Scrabble words from her - “FEZ” which is a hat, and “JO” which means ‘sweetheart’; two neat little words to have tucked into your brain when you’re looking for a space to play that ‘J’ square which is worth a whopping eight points. The ‘F’ is worth four points and the ‘Z’ is worth ten points. I was excited to be able to use my ‘Z’ for something other than “Zoo”. To this day, I love playing Canasta and when playing Scrabble, I almost always play the word, “Jo” and I always think of my Grandma.

My Grandpa Bill died when I was six so my memories of him are limited. But I can remember he would bounce me on his knee and call me his “Pumpkin”. He also had a rack of pipes and would sit in his big easy chair and smoke a pipe each night after dinner while wearing his slippers. I loved the smell of Grandpa’s pipes. Something else I remember is that Grandpa always seemed to be trimming the hedges which bordered their yard. He cut the cord several times and had to buy new hedge trimmers more than once. Grandpa also used to enjoy sitting on the green metal chairs in the backyard. Nearby they had a big patch of lily of the valley growing under the trees. Lily of the Valley is one of my favorite flowers because my Grandma told me that they were the birth flower for the month of May - which is when I was born.

Grandma LOVED to do needlework, especially knitting and crocheting. She always had a tote bag of yarn with her wherever she went and crocheted constantly. I have an entire collection of 10-inch dolls packed away in my Mom’s attic which Grandma crocheted all the tiny dresses and costumes using crochet cotton and a very small steel crochet hook. Grandma wanted to teach me to crochet, but I was never really interested until I went to college and watched my boss in the alumni office crocheting an afghan during lunch. I asked Bonnie to teach me and she did. Grandma was so excited that I learned to crochet and immediately began heaping books of patterns and boxes and bags full of yarn upon my head. It’s was sort of like “heaping burning coals upon” my head - only different. I have many, many plastic bins FULL of yarn in my garage. Some of it is yarn left over from the yarn that Grandma gave me. Most of it is what I bought for myself. All of it annoys the heck out of my husband who has had to move it several dozen times. (Although currently I’m crocheting lap robes along with some other ladies from church. We’re going to give them to the local nursing home residents for Christmas. Lately, it’s unusual to see me without a crochet hook and yarn in my possession. In fact, the other night when my friend, Jim walked into worship practice and saw me crocheting, he said to Dawna, “I knew she would be doing that.” My thought was - oh no, I’m becoming my Grandmother. I’ve already become my mother - so I guess this is the next stage in the progression.)

Shortly before my father died, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. After Dad’s death, she declined very quickly and was no longer able to crochet. . My uncle moved her shortly after Dad died to a nursing home on the other side of the state closer to him. He told us that it was because she was his mother and she was his responsibility. He didn’t want the burden of care to fall on my Mom. We enjoyed visiting Grandma often and we didn’t want him to move her –but he did. I only saw my Grandma once after she was moved so far away. She had trouble remembering all of her grandchildren and how we were all related. The last time that I saw her, she said that she thought I was the one who used to bring her ice cream. She had to be reminded that I was her eldest granddaughter.

One evening I got a call from my Mom saying that Uncle George had called to say that Grandma probably wouldn’t live through the night. As sad as I was, I was more concerned about the state of my Grandma’s heart. You see, for years, we had all shared with her about the love of Jesus. She would attend church but it was never really apparent whether or not she had made an actual commitment to the Lord. I remember on several occasions after sharing with her the things that God was doing in my life, she would smile at me and say, “Debbie, you would have made a great preacher’s wife.” For some reason, in her mind, if you were very spiritual-minded you must be in some kind of ministry. I stayed awake most of that night praying for my Grandma. I cried and pleaded with the Lord and asked Him if there was some way that He could allow her to be cognitive enough to understand and would He send someone, or even an angel to speak with her and pray with her so that she would know that she would spend eternity with Him. In the morning, my Mom called to say that Uncle George had called and Grandma had died.

I opened up my Bible to a random spot, looked down and read these words from Psalm 16.

“9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

I realize that these verses are speaking about the Lord, but at that moment in time, it was a confirmation to me from the Holy Spirit that Grandma was in Heaven and I will indeed see her again one day. She probably is crocheting afghans for the angels as we speak. And I know that at The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, some of Grandma’s brownies will be on the dessert menu.


dawnaj1958 said...

Now I must confess to envy. I wish I had had a grandmother who was like that. Well, maybe mine was, but never to me. You were blessed to have a grandma like that. One to laugh with and teach you things and love you. What a beautiful heritage she left you. I intend to do that for my grandchildren. Thank you for a beautiful story.

Birmingham Girl said...

I love these sweet remembrances, they really touch my heart. I have an aunt named Emma, she is in a home also with Alzheimer's.
Your so blessed to have these wonderful memories, like Dawna I wish I had them also. My mothers mom died at 54 and I didn't have a close relationship with my dad's mother...she preferred her other grandchildren ~I know that's hard to believe :) From what I can gather, a grandparents love is so special and lasts forever..cherish your memories!

Sara said...

how i love these kinds of posts (obviously)! i am honored and grateful to you for sharing your grandmother with us and her picture was so sweet. i feel rich for having had a little glimpse into your life deb. thank you. and more of these please!! there have to be some little girl deb pics out there somewhere!

Deb said...

all my 'little girl deb' photos are at my mom's --i don't have any in my possession....

more to follow --i'm writing about my other grandmother next....

Tonya said...

Grandma's are so special. I LOVE my Grandma so much, she is like a second mother to me. Thank you for sharing your story, it was very beautiful!

paula said...

I appreciate your story of your grandmother. I work in an assisted living home and deal with alzhimers and dementia daily. It is hard on the family when their parent doesn't remember things. Grandparents are true blessings that sometime we don't realize until its too late. I am glad you had such a good relationship with her.