Monthly Archives: September 2015

Thank You Grandma – a “sort of” eulogy

In my last post I had mentioned a few lessons from my grandma. The post actually started as a lessons learned from both of my, let’s say “unique,” grandmas. But writing about both of these interesting ladies, who mean so much to me, was too big of a task to take on.

Well since my last post, my other grandma passed away. During a recent trip, I received a text that grandma fell and broke her hip and died an hour later during x-rays. She was battling dementia, so in many ways it was a blessing it went fast. I think she was ready to say goodbye awhile ago. I also know how lucky I was to have had 46 years with two grandmas (and hopefully many more with the remaining one).

My dad asked me to do a reading at the funeral. After finishing it up and getting ready to head down to the River where she lived to do my reading and say a final goodbye, I decided to post the reading. Not that I feel that others are interested in my random memories, but for a few other reasons:

  • Grandma liked being the center of attention. She would get a kick out of being on the Web.
  • During my writing, it hit me that I also am genetically predisposed to dementia. If that happens, maybe someone can pull up my blog and I can at least read about my past.
  • It lets me “cheat” a bit by reusing content I already wrote and I can now say “It is your turn, Stormy!” Let’s call it being efficient.

Thank You Grandma

I have never given a eulogy. I am not sure if there are “normal” requirements or expectations. I did try Google, the answer to everything. But anything I found sounded formulated, wasn’t personal, and didn’t sound like me nor like her. So, you are stuck with what I came up with on my own, which is simply sharing some memories. It may not be right (if there is a “right”) so bear with me…Grandma would have. She sat through countless shows, including costume changes, put on by my sister Kristin and me through the years. And always pretended to love them, no matter how awful the performance.

So much of my, and Kristin’s, childhood is wrapped in memories of grandma. We spent a lot of time there. With parents who were divorced and moved often, being at the cabin with grandma and grandpa was one of our few constant settings.

With a setting like this, how can you not love being at Grandma’s!

Now, if you know my grandma well, you can probably imagine she wasn’t the typical grandma characterized in storybooks. Though, she did bake the most incredible pies. Even when she got to the point where she didn’t have much else in her house when we came to visit (and we actually preferred she didn’t cook), she still would have a freshly baked fruit or pecan pie waiting for us. And yes dad, the pies for us continued long after she stopped having them waiting for her sons.

Grandma wasn’t always easygoing. Actually, she could be a bit difficult. The best way to describe it is that she acted like a child. Grandma spoke her mind, often without thinking. She liked things to be centered around her own needs. Often she would cut off her nose to spite her face, for example hiding in her bedroom pouting when she knew we would be leaving the next day versus just enjoying the day we actually had left. But on the flipside, that same childlike essence is what made her magical to her granddaughters. No other adult would sit on the floor playing paper dolls or Barbies. And really playing, not just the distracted act of playing that most adults do to keep kids occupied. She immersed herself in our play. In the mornings, we could crawl into her bed and entertain each other by taking turns making up silly stories with us three always as the star characters. She understood little girl fantasy play and made our pretend world better, whether by providing scarfs and fancy skirts (Kristin, remember the pink poodle skirt and black lace Flamenco one?) or by showing us how to use the radio on the wall as an intercom to improve our game of being Charlie’s Angels. At the sandbar, grandma would help us “plant trees” – which meant finding big sticks, poking them in the ground and watering them. I could go on and on, because for me, the majority of my memories as a little girl include grandma. I was happy there, and I knew I was loved. She gave me a stable place to revisit and build memories upon. And, she was fun.

As we got older, busier, and independent our visits became less frequent. But besides being a family gathering place for Dad, Shari and Mark, visiting grandma also continued to be our special girls’ place. My sister Kristin even held her bachelorette party there. Grandma and the girls celebrated at the Pioneer Club on karaoke night. I can still picture Grandma’s big smile and hear her laugh the next day as we teased her about the guy who tried to pick her up. Another time we brought our friend Elizabeth down to visit Grandma with us. We had a fashion show as Grandma pulled out all of her fantastic clothes. (The dress I have on is from that day and Elizabeth still wears a couple of pieces she adopted that day too.) One time, we sat in the basement looking at her old photos and teasing her about the comments she had written on them. How her legs were looking pudgy, or that is a bad angle for her versus anything about the cute baby that sat next to her. What I remember most about those times is all the laughter. We would always get each other laughing till our jaws hurt and tears rolled down our face. Grandma had a great laugh.

When I first faced I was losing Grandma, to age and dementia, I was playing three-handed pinochle with her and Kristin. We grew up with cards at the cabin, and my sister at four would use a tinfoil box to hold her cards. This time, however, in middle of the game, grandma stated that she had never played pinochle before. That was hard. I didn’t want her to forget me.

The times when Kristin and I were able to visit her in the hospital these past couple of years, anytime she would remember something about us girls–when we could get her to crack a smile about our past memories, or see interest pique at “girlie things” like the fake eyelashes we had on–those were the times I had my grandma back again.

During my Googling I did find a quote that stuck with me – “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment till it becomes a memory.”

Thank you, Grandma, for so many moments. I love you.

Lions and soldiers and refugees, Oh my!

This past week, my sister made the type of comparison that is becoming all too common, particularly on Facebook. She had posted an article about the crisis in Europe related to the overflow of Syrian refugees. A photo of a small child who drowned while his family was trying to flee to Greece had touched her heart and she was asking her FB friends where the outrage was for this situation—comparing it to a month earlier when a Minnesota dentist’s slaying of a beloved lion had sparked outrage in the FB community that went on for days and days.

I'm just as saddened by the death of what's-his-name with the cool spots.

I’m just as saddened by the death of what’s-his-name with the cool spots.

If you don’t live under a rock, you probably heard about Cecil the Lion. And if you live in Minnesota, like us, you literally couldn’t escape the story because it featured a local villain. My sister had gone to Dr. Palmer for dental work. My coworker lives in the same neighborhood and gave first-hand witness of how the vilified dentist was being stalked by the media around the clock. His crime was illegal trophy-hunting and when the story broke, it appeared that most Americans didn’t realize trophy hunting was a pretty common occurrence among a segment of hunters with the means to pursue it. I was a little perplexed at the sudden outrage myself. I don’t approve of trophy hunting, but it’s been going on for years. Was the game changer the fact that he killed a lion with a name? Why didn’t anyone protest over the 40+ animals (lion, rhino, polar bear, etc.), that he had shot earlier? Or how about the other rich “sportsmen” doing the exact same thing, legally, every day?

However, while I agree that my sister’s point was valid (i.e., that many Americans’ values are out of whack), she made a grave error in how she posed her concern. By drawing a comparison between the toddler’s death and the lion’s death, she actually diverted focus from the refugee situation—because commenters immediately started defending their outrage about Cecil the Lion.

The situation was a classic example of a scarcity mentality that seems to be taking root on Facebook. That is, living as though there is a scarcity of outrage, a scarcity of common sense, a scarcity of compassion. In other words, assuming you can have compassion for a lion OR for Syrian refugees, but not both. Applying a “This OR That” logic.

In this, she’s not alone, and there’s nowhere it’s more apparent than on Facebook. A few recent examples:

When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, the White House displayed some colored lights to celebrate the ruling. Immediately the posts criticizing the action started popping up: “Why didn’t the White House shine special lights on Veteran’s Day to acknowledge the sacrifice of our troops?!” Hey, that’s a nice idea, too. Let’s do that. But you don’t need to take away something nice for gay rights in order to do something nice for our military. You can do both!

Granted, not your typical American hero...

Granted, not your typical American hero…

Another example, Bruce Jenner’s transformation to Caitlyn Jenner and some articles that lauded her gender transformation as “brave”… The scarcity crowd immediately started posting photos of combat veterans and countering, “Caitlyn Jenner isn’t brave, these guys are brave!” Well, can’t they BOTH be brave? A different kind of braveness, to be sure, but really, can’t they both be considered brave for their respective actions? Why do we have to belittle one to applaud the other?

And don’t get me started on the whole Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter/Cop Lives Matter issue. Of course they matter! They all do! But trying to raise awareness about serious issues facing the black community does not mean that those raising the issue are against cops* or dismiss the value of “other lives”… Those aren’t mutually exclusive positions and as Americans, we don’t have to subscribe to the notion of limiting “whose lives matter.” Or rationing how much outrage we can apply to an injustice. Or meting out the level of support we’re willing to give someone going through difficult times. It’s time that we stop these divisive arguments that diminish us as a society and embrace an abundance mentality.

Yes, it’s awful that Cecil was slaughtered AND yes, we should try and provide aid for refugees in Europe. Yes, it’s great that gay people can finally marry AND let’s give a little more recognition to the soldiers protecting our freedom. Yes, Caitlyn Jenner did a brave thing in acknowledging her inner struggle AND yes, let’s make sure our combat veterans have all the support and medical care they need when they return home. Let’s say yes to ensuring black people are treated fairly in the justice system AND yes to ensuring the safety of the cops who are doing their best to make that happen AND yes to protecting you and your loved ones as well.

Ultimately, all a scarcity mentality will get us is a shortage of everything we need as a society, because scarcity tends to feed upon itself until it eats away at everything good. Our ultimate redemption will only come in our ability to embrace an abundance mentality that says, YES. We have enough compassion for all—both This AND That!


*I acknowledge that there will always be some wingnuts who genuinely mean harm. My stance on that is to monitor them closely, but don’t fan the flames of their obsession.