Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day

I am a mother, stepmother, grandmother.  My two daughters are mothers themselves.  I often do not get to spend time WITH my children on Mother's Day.  But I do get phone calls and messages.

I've been thinking about this year's Mother's Day for quite a while now.  It is one of 'those' firsts -- the first Mother's Day since my Mom died.

I am very grateful to my niece April for taking this picture on Mother's Day last May.  It was a rare day.  Since I grew up and moved to the Pacific Northwest, I didn't get to spend Mother's Days WITH my Mom.  I was one of those many making a phone call, often waiting for an open line, since Mother's Day logs the most phone calls of the year.

This year, my call won't go through the normal channels.

Many tears are still being shed at the loss of my dear Mom, and many at the thought of this first Mother's Day without her here, and at the thought that I am so grateful for the one we got to spend together last year.

As a tribute to her, I want to share with you the words my niece Chelsey spoke at Mom's funeral. Chelsey has a way with words, and these were very memorable, as were those she spoke for Dad's funeral, just four weeks before Mom's.  Chelsey shared her stories electronically with us, and added them in a Shutterfly photograph book she put together.  But I never read the words again until I was preparing this blog post.  With Chelsey's permission, I share them with  you here:

“I remember when we were nose-to-nose,” I can still hear Grandma saying those words to me years ago. 

Like all of her grandkids, it didn’t take long for me to grow to be nose-to-nose with Grandma. I remember the days when each Grandkid took a turn standing back-to-back or nose-to-nose with her. It was a right of passage to grow past Grandma in height and she would be the first one to show her congratulations with a prideful smile. 
Standing just over five feet tall, I called her my “little Grandma” during my toddler years. As I reflect back to the title of “little Grandma” that I gave her, I smile at how it fits her in so many ways. She was a little lady who did the little things, liked the little things, and will be remembered for the little things. 

As I reflect on the 23 years I knew my Grandma, one thing I have realized is that she did so many “little things.” As an oldest child, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a teacher, a 4-H leader and a neighbor, Grandma was used to doing the “little things” that needed to be done.  

For as long as I can remember, at every family gathering, we would arrive at her home and find Grandma scurrying around her kitchen, making sure to finish all of the “little things” that needed to be finished before a meal could be served. And of course, she always made sure to be at the sink washing the dishes once we were done eating, even when some of these tasks became more difficult with her health in later years. 

When I was younger, I remember helping my Grandma and my Mom freeze sweet corn each year. Grandma was always responsible for picking the little strands of silks off of the sweet corn. Anyone who has done this task knows that it takes a lot of patience. However, Grandma always did this task with diligence and without a complaint. We missed her this year since that task became my job. 

Of course, not all of the “little things” she did were limited to helping her family. Grandma made a difference in the lives of many through her years of service to the Western Community Action “Economy Store” in Storden. I remember her morning routine when I would visit her during weekdays. We would walk to the little post office in Storden and check her mail. Then we would walk to the old school in Storden and unlock the store. Sometimes she would let me shop there through what seemed like a treasure trove of toys and dress-up clothes. 

Little did I know, that her involvement with this store meant coordinating many volunteers to work there and provide furniture, clothing, and toys to hundreds of families in need. Despite her impact, Grandma would have simply shrugged her shoulders, smiled and said it was the least she could do. She thrived on helping people and doing the little things that made such a big difference. 

Grandma looked out for the little things too with the various pets and especially cats that she cared for over the years. Each of her cats would be spoiled with love. She even made sure to leave food outside for the stray cats in Storden. Grandma also always had several bird feeders out and she always impressed us with her knowledge of each kind of bird. In her days on the dairy farm, she looked out for and cared for the little creatures too, feeding the chickens and the baby calves. 

She also took care of the little things of the land, as of course those who knew her, knew that she had a love for vegetable gardening and flowering gardening. 

I admired the relationship that Grandma and Grandpa shared. One “little thing” she did that moved me was when she made sure to bring Grandpa a little Hershey’s kiss for his Trick or Treat when Grandpa was in the hospital last Halloween. 

One thing I also learned about my Grandma was that she liked the “little things.” However, this didn’t mean that she only liked those things a little. She found great pleasure from the simple things in her life and those things never stopped bringing her joy. 

She loved the little town of Storden, the little Amo Methodist Church in the country, her little red house, and the little dairy farm just outside of town. Grandpa never needed to worry about taking her out for a fancy dinner, because Grandma would be more than happy to have a Hardees roast beef or the daily special at the Shady Drive Inn. 

Of course she loved all of her little grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even once they were no longer little and didn’t stand nose-to-nose with Grandma, she loved hearing about everything they were up to. She took advantage of any opportunity to share her most recent picture of a grandchild or great grandchild—I have heard that the hair dresser, doctor, waitress at the Drive Inn, nurses at the Good Samaritan Home, and anyone else Grandma frequently ran into, knows how much pride she had for her family. 

It was the “little things” that made her laugh too. From something cute her grandkids would say, to teasing her cats with a toy or treat, it didn’t take much to make Grandma chuckle. 

She was a special little lady. It will be the little things about her, that we will remember most. Her Grandchildren will treasure the little things she made them such as clothing for dolls, knitted sweaters, baby blankets and pillow quilts. We all remember her little beanie baby collection and even the beanie baby bears she made for each Grandchild. The little letters and gifts Grandma sent to her Grandkids while they were living states or countries away from her and the letters she sent to some of her Grandkids while they were at 4-H camp are another little thing we will all treasure.

Christmas and Thanksgiving won’t be the same without her delicious rolls that no one can make quite like her. The grandchildren would sometimes even fight over the last roll. And, every time we have Kool Aid it will bring back the memory of drinking it at Grandma’s house. 

We will treasure the little things she taught us too. From piano duets, to knitting and crocheting, she passed a little piece of herself down to her Grandkids. 

Of course we will remember the little things she had. Her little Shirley temple doll was special and it was always a privilege to play with it with her in her room. And her little box of fancy silverware that she brought out for special gatherings. Her little walking stick that she always joked that she needed to find a parking spot for before she sat down and her little purse. It proved to be a challenge to find a purse that had just the right length of straps to carry with her cane, but April was successful at finding one after be given the purse criteria by Grandpa and then spending many hours of shopping to find one a few Christmases ago. 

Of course, not everything about Grandma was little. She had more than a little collection of books. In fact she had shelves and shelves, piles upon piles and bags upon bags of books. You could never leave her house without at least a bag full of reading material to take home. Her love for reading is another trait she passed down to many of her Grandchildren. 

She had big stories too. Stories that she told often of a tornado that hit her childhood farm, of the National 4-H Conservation trip that she won, of her first day at Blue Earth Public School, of her first day of work as a secretary for the Frost REA the Monday after she graduated high school, of where she was on VE day, and of her first time meeting Maynard at a bowling gathering with friends. She also told stories of her time living in Washington State. She always said that someone told her that if she worked in Washington for a year, she would never want to leave, so she made sure to only stay there for 10 months. 

Most of all, she was a little lady with a big heart. She took great pride in being the first generation of a three-generation 4-H family. Grandma couldn’t be a better example of someone who has pledged her head for clearer thinking, her heart for greater loyalty, her health for better living, and her hands for larger service. 

My “little Grandma” has a special place in my heart and the hearts of those she knew. She has made me realize how important it is to do the little things and enjoy the little things. She spent her whole life caring for the things God created for her, and I take great comfort in knowing that heaven gained such a special caretaker. 

Needlework that hung on the fridge

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