3.04.2011

Not your grandmother's grandma.

(These are the remarks I made at my Grammy's funeral on Tuesday.)

Doris Shields was not my grandmother, nor was she my grandma. Those terms imply a much rounder, soft woman of indeterminate age, one who bakes cookies and buys you ugly sweaters that you must pretend to like. A grandma is loved, without a doubt. A grandma will let you cry into her apron, or she may even take you to the circus when it comes to town. But a grandma doesn't ride a motorcycle. She doesn't stand on her head, or tap dance in her underwear, or laugh until she pees her pants. No. That's Grammy. And that's who Doris Shields was. She was Grammy.

Grammy had remedies for every ailment. Blue peppermints to settle your stomach. She carried them in her purse at all times. Aloe plants for burns or scrapes. Once, on a visit to Florida, Elecia developed a mysterious case of hives and Grammy slathered her legs in everything from baking soda to Karo syrup, sure that the next concoction would be the cure.

Grammy would buy anything as long as it was on sale. She was constantly cruising rummage sales and auctions for new treasures. It was always exciting to see what she brought home from a sale, because it could be ANYTHING! Once there were pairs upon pairs of roller skates, and we all skated around the basement. Once there were tap shoes, and we were all sent home with a pair (Mom loved those, I know.) Grammy also never got rid of anything. From toys that used to belong to Mom and Pinky and Marty, to every stitch of clothing any of them ever wore, I swear, she never got rid of anything! This combination made for some great adventures for three little girls who used to spend a week at Gram and Granddad’s house every summer. We would venture up to the attic to play dress up in clothing from various decades—Grammy’s square dancing skirts, party dresses of Mom and Pinky’s from when they were in school, and shoes…oh, the shoes! Lace up boots, cork soled platforms, leather moccasins, sandals, heels…The woman. Had. Shoes.

Other than the attic, our favorite treasure trove at Grammy’s was probably her bedroom vanity, where she kept her makeup, brushes and combs, jewelry, fingernails, wigs. I’ve never been much of a girly girl, but even I delighted in taking her fake fingernails and sticking them over my own nails with the little bits of leftover nail glue that still clung to them. Mom always thought that was gross, but Adriane and Elecia and I knew it was FABULOUS!

Even with as many grandchildren and great grandchildren that Grammy had, she always made each of us feel special. For me, my connection with Gram was the crossword puzzle. During the weeks we spent at their house, Grammy would always let me hang over her shoulder and work the crossword puzzle with her. From the daily newspaper puzzles, to her collection of Dell magazines, we worked endless crosswords together. Grammy was particular about her crossword. There were specific guidelines: it always had to be filled in in ink, you don’t write in an answer until you’ve gotten it confirmed, you begin with 1 across, and you don’t skip randomly through clues, and all letters are to be capitalized except “E.” She always used a lowercase “E” in the crossword. I don’t know why; it was just a rule. Crosswords were a constant, and as I grew older, I got more involved. When I was old enough that my penmanship was deemed passable for filling in the letters, I was thrilled. When I got good enough that I started suggesting answers, I really felt big time. And when I started knowing answers that she didn’t get (usually about pop culture, and then increasingly about literature or some topic I’d recently covered in school), I was over the moon. We got to a point where we could work the crossword competitively. Over the years, our crossword skills crossed over; as I got better, she deteriorated, became rusty, forgetful.

I have so many treasured memories of Grammy and Granddaddy. I couldn’t share them all if we stayed here all day. Picking up shells on the beach in Florida, making noodles in her kitchen in the house in Toledo, playing endless card games (King’s Corners, Hand and Foot, Pinochle), walking and riding bikes, watching the fireworks together in Casey on the Fourth of July, listening to her music boxes, looking at family photos and listening to her tell the stories behind them… I was incredibly lucky to have Grammy in my life. We all were.

I was there in the room with her on Friday, when she died, and all I could think of as she left us was “Thank you.” I kept thinking, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Thank you for being the Grammy you were. You were a bargain hunting, card playing, tap dancing, motorcycle riding, noodle-making wonder. Thank you for the gift of your presence in my life. I’m so lucky to be your granddaughter.

And thank you to all of you, for giving me the opportunity to share that.

2 comments:

chksngr said...

I wish I could have met such a wonderful woman. I am so sorry for your loss. However, I'm sure she is entertaining all those young girls in heaven who need somebody to teach them to tap dance and roller skate and how to properly fill in a crossword puzzle. Heaven is most certainly a funner place now that she is there!!! HUGS and BLESSINGS to you and your family.

Kai said...

Wow! What a tribute to what seems to be an amazing woman. I'm so glad you had her in your life, not only for all of those great memories she brought to you but because you could share her with us... and now she will have a little bit in my memory too. HUGS and my condolences!