Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pruning Souls - a Master Gardener

A year ago today my grandmother, my friend passed on. I miss her.

When we first moved back from The Philippines, we lived with her just before her mission. All the cousins used to gather at least once a month for caramel corn and family movies. We'd top off the night with Texas chocolate cake and ice cream. Grandma B use to open up the carton of ice cream and divide it up by everyone who was there so we each got our own miniature slab! Those were fun times.

We moved across town and then moved back to live next door to her for a year in junior high and I'd often wander over for heart-to-heart talks. My mother didn't understand me, the way mothers often don't know the hearts of thirteen year old girls (according to thirteen year old girls). And so, weeding the beds of Sequoia strawberries, plucking juicy raspberries, or pruning rosebushes in her great, floppy gardening hat - she listened and she loved. And she'd ask questions, listening without ever seeming to pass judgement.

Once, when I turned twelve, she took me to see a movie. And, oh the language was not quite "Grandma" standards. Still, it was a great movie by Hollywood standards and she asked me to promise her if I was ever 'in the movies' to never be in one that wasn't up to Grandma standards. I absolutely agreed - mainly because I knew I would never be in the movies, but also because I couldn't fathom the thought of ever letting her down.

There are many times I remember laying on her waterbed, the lilac-scented air drifting in through the window, and we'd talk some about everything and nothing - did she miss Grandpa (of course), their years in New Zealand, her meeting apostles and prophets, her testimony, family stories (my dad throwing darts at the piano), how we missed Ginger (the best dog ever - just don't reach under the woodpile when she's just had puppies),  favorite ice cream flavors- hers was Jamocha Almond Fudge and mine was Bubble Gum, how she took me to the doctor when my eardrum burst when I was five (I'd had a fever of 104 and it made my nose bleed). It seems we had a lifetime of these talks. She'd go through her make-up samples and turn over three or four tiny white tubes of lipstick that held bright coral or peachy hues and I'd always felt like I'd hit the make-up jackpot.

Later, my family moved a few miles up the hill from her in a house my dad built, but I was allergic to the fumes from the carpet glue so I moved in temporarily with Grandma. It was just the two of us for three or four weeks (well as much as you can have the matriarch of nine children and their many children all to yourself).

When my parents would go on trips she'd come stay with us occasionally and always get us up for scripture study. If we were too sleepy to read, she'd led us in a round of calisthenics. That was all it took, we couldn't have a spunky, white-haired Grandma B best us. We woke up and read. She was mostly cheerful and rarely cross, but she knew how be firm. You better hop to it if you ever saw her cross because it almost never happened. In fact, I can't really think of an instance. I'd probably have to go really, really far back in my journal to find one.

Grandma and I also travelled together. About  a year after I graduated from high school, I received a marriage proposal that my parents felt I should really ponder first, so I moved in with Grandma B to "ponder" - lucky parents (and me), that's when I met Blaine. During my pondering hiatus, I had just met Blaine and been out with him (Grandma had gotten to know him a bit since I had had a bloody nose (of course) that first night and she had to stall for me). 

Grandma decided that we should take a trip to Arizona to Aunt Wendy and Uncle Alan's. Jenny Biesinger also travelled went with us. We drove the scenic route and as Grandma pointed out everything there was to see we all talked - maybe Jenny wished we didn't talk so much. We visited with Moana, Randy, Margie and Wendy over ten days, and it was a great distraction. When we returned from our trip, I was ready to move back in with my parents. Grandma had a way of helping me feel more confident in my decisions without my even realizing I'd even made them. She had a hand in our courtship and we often went to visit her and talk with her. I know a lot of the cousins have this in common. We knew that if we introduced someone we were interested in, and they passed the Grandma test - that is, if they loved her as much as we did - then we knew we had someone wonderful.

While Ty, our first, was blessed in Blaine's same blessing suit, and photographed slumping awkwardly in each of our laps, Grandma B is shown holding him like a woman who's had nine children and comforted scores more, there's little doubt who knew their way around a baby.

When Ty began an unusual crying/screaming that seemed to originate from the bottom of his toes and left him inconsolable and unresponsive, my mom told me to call Grandma B and let her listen. I did. She said she'd never heard a baby cry like that, so we took him to the Emergency Room. He'd had a brain inflammation in response to a vaccine a couple days before. Grandma testified for me before a special magistrate about the things she'd heard and seen with Ty. She was an integral part of his life. Not many people know that she helped us with him.

I mean she came in to our home and helped care for him, came into our home and provided respite care for him, went down to St. George and held Jessie and fed Ty so I could pack up my house and move back here to a 900 square foot apartment. She was a key part of my family's daily/weekly life.

My contribution to Grandma's room redo was a quilt. We shopped for everything together. She selected each fabric and the pattern herself. The pattern was the most difficult I've ever done, with several mitered corners and blocks that were cut apart and then reassembled. But she knew I could do it, and she never noticed my mistakes. That quilt now rests on my bed as a daily reminder that I can do hard things even though I make mistakes.

When I had my cancer treatment, and had to be in isolation for three weeks Grandma B would let me call her for one of our heart to hearts (or chewin her ears) and I would interview her about one of my favorite family stories. I wrote some of them down, but other times I'd just listen and catch up on family news. She always knew just how everyone was doing, and I live that about

She travelled with the girls and I to Kristen's in Canada, and that was a fun trip except for all the screaming that Gracie did while I drove. It made that trip so long. We had a nice time at Kristen's, and my girls won't ever forget that trip. With Grandma I learned to always take the time to stop and see the landmarks and family history sites along the way. She had wanted to see (or show me) Sterling, a place her ancestors had been called to settle - what a hard and sad, sad story (I can never again think my life is hard). We ended up white-knuckling it through some slush to see some landmarks and hear some great family stories. We'd originally planned to stay the night in a hotel in Idaho, but Gracie had finally fallen asleep and I asked her if she wanted to try and drive straight through. I said I thought I could make it if she could keep on talking, and she said we'd better not risk waking that sleeping beauty, she could talk alright.

My family was blessed to have Grandma live with us for a few months while we helped cared for her. It was wonderful to see all the people she loved, who loved her and cared for her and helped care for her. It was a great blessing for my children to visit with her, to share in caring for her, to feel of her strong spirit and testimony, to hear of her wonderful experiences, to see the many people who also cared for her come in and out of our home. I enjoyed the nightly ritual of rubbing her feet and back and hands and arms as we'd discuss the day and always she'd be so appreciative. My Grandma wasn't an angel, but she sure looked like one. Every once in awhile we'd talk about people's foibles and how frustrating they are, but we'd always bring the conversation around to the positive. I don't remember my Grandma saying some of the things other people do, but I remember her talking about if we all put our troubles in a bag and hung them on a line and had a chance to run and choose any bag we wanted, we'd all run for our own bag. It's all in what you know. I only wish I'd been in less physical pain so I'd had more quality time with her.

Looking back, I realize now what a gift I had in those three months, my whole life, really. Grandma was good at loving everyone and making everyone feel like her favorite. What a legacy she has left. 

The Friday before she passed, she was still trying to tell me that she hadn't done anything in life worth remembering, but of course besides all of the big things (of which there are many), these are just a wee portion of the little things. I love you, Grandma. Thank you for allowing us to have a small part in caring for you, it made a big impact on our family. If anyone has truly exemplified Kia Ngawari, it is you and your husband and the children you have raised.

Till we meet again.

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