Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grandma's hands

Grandma's hands could always keep up with her heart.  Giving heart, giving hands.  My first introduction to those hands was Christmas Eve 1966.  Jerry had taken me to his house at about 9pm and there was my future mother-in-law and her two college age daughters, sitting on the living room floor surrounded by pieces of fabric and Barbie dolls.  I was instantly included with the invitation, "Do you want to help us make doll clothes for Kimberly's Christmas present?"  I sat down and innocently asked, "Where's the pattern?"  A blank look and a little exasperated, "Just hold the fabric to the doll and make something."  That was so not the world I came from.  So, I did what they did and we made Barbie a Christmas wardrobe for a waiting 6 year-old.  Such was my mother-in-law's approach to life.  No pattern, no money, make something beautiful or tasty, and, always, always share.

         Here is one of two sayings framed on Grandma's wall:

She made our wedding cake and then taught me how to make them, too.  I spent hours in her kitchen trying to learn how to make frosting roses and perfectly piped edges.  I became her assistant and we made countless cakes together.  I always drove the finished product to the church while she sat with the top cake in her lap. 
When the finishing touches were done, she would stand back and admire "our" work.

Her hands were not just creating hands; they were serving hands.  She was my first visiting teaching compaion.  I learned to serve, not just occasionally, but faithfully.  100% was not a goal.  It was a fact.  She was resourceful, too.  Once, while driving on a dirt road to visit one of our sisters I buried a wheel in some soft sand.  She told me to stop gunning it, that she knew what to do.  She searched in the desert until she found a piece of cardboard.  She shoved it under the wheel and said, "NOW gun it!"  We were only a little late for our appointment.

Her hands were busy all summer, getting ready for Christmas.  She and my father-in-law canned and canned and made fruit leather by the mile.  They wanted to have a gift for everyone.  Before the advent of gift bags, she would collect small cardboard boxes and carefully cover and line each one in gift wrap.  The tops were always left open to expose the goodies abounding inside.  My favorite memory of their Christmas tree is the floor covered in dozens of festive boxes knowing that one of them had our names on it.

Her arms and hands were most at home when holding babies.  She loved us all but she especially love the tiny little ones.  She would hold them close where they nestled in cozy and safe.

Easter was amazing.  Grandma loved candy and she loved to share it.   I think of her hands lovingly filling HUNDREDS of colored plastic eggs.  Grandpa and his sons would hide them in their huge yard and then Grandpa would yell, "Go find them!"  The kids could not run fast enough and it was impossible for the cameras to keep up. 

It was a melee of the grandest sort and grandma never stopped smiling!

She decided that everyone in the family should have a quilt from her.  She made them for her eight children and then her grandchildren.  The grandchildren got theirs when they got married.  It became a ritual.  The couple-to-be would go to grandma's and pick out a quilt (she always had several so there would be choices). As she got older and slower, she worried about her unmarried grandchildren not getting a quilt.  Reluctantly, she allowed her girls to help her finish the last of the nearly 50 quilts.

It was never just "Grandma" it was always "Grandma and Grandpa".  They went everywhere together, and they always held hands.  Many Sundays while following them into church, I wished I had a camera.  I never took a picture of them walking together, but that is how I remember them.  Grandpa was told how romantic that was and his comment was priceless, "Sure I love her, but at our age we're just holding each other up."  Their having lived lives hand in hand, holds the rest of us up, too.

On her final day, August 29, 2011, her heart slowed, she stopped talking, she seemed to not see or hear, but there was always someone at her side wanting to hold those gentle, tired hands.

At her funeral, it was her hands that seemed to be the real her, those hands that spoke love, and comfort, and peace, even then.

                 Grandma's hands were a work of art -
a work of the heart.


robin said...

what a beautiful tribute! she sounds remarkable.

it makes me wonder what my future daughters-in law will say about me someday... hmm...

Jenny said...

Thank you, Mom. And thank you, Grandma.

shelly said...

To quote Karen Tolman, "Beautiful woman, beautiful life."

Carrie said...

Oh Mom! This is so amazing. I've been wanting to write about Grandma too, but you've said it all so perfectly here. It makes me miss her and grandpa.

Crys said...

I love hearing more about her from the experiences of others. I think it is the memories of those that she loved that are her greatest tribute.

Crystalin Dunn said...

Jeanie, that was so lovingly done. What poignant memories. I can't think of a single time when I saw her without a smile on her face. I learned to recognize her different types of smiles("I think you're wrong, but ok", "You came to visit!", "I'm just listening", "I'm so glad you like our gift" etc.). I think Grandma's and Grandpa's family is a great reflection of their influence: friendly, serving, happy, vibrant, laughing, strong.

raehink said...

A marvelous tribute to a great woman! Thank you.

Derek & Naomi said...

I pray to be a woman like her!