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Memories of my Gramma
July 15, 2012 - Jennifer Brookens
(In memory of my grandmother Doris Suhr of Manitowoc, Wisc., who died at the age of 92 Saturday)
"A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend." ~Author Unknown
I have different memories of my Gramma Suhr than most of her other grandchildren who lived closer to her. Living in a different part of the country, as a child I only got to see my grandma once a year when we'd do the annual trek back to Wisconsin from the Rocky Mountains. As I became an adult, the visits lessened as I had to deal with real world responsibilities.
But one thing I always observed about my grandma was that she always conducted herself as a lady. She was kind yet strong, and was a wonderful matriarch for our family. Even when she was angry, she would remain soft-spoken. And with the exception of a few politicians, I never heard her speak badly of anyone. She never seemed to judge me and always showed me love and compassion, from scraped knees and head bumps as a child to broken hearts and wounded egos as a young adult.
I will always remember the smell of her house, or her apartment: Irish Spring soap and whatever she was cooking that day: goulash, her pistachio pudding cake, or everyone's favorite congo bars. And how my dad would always chide about how I would never leave if she kept cooking stuff like that. I remember orange juice every morning in the little glasses with the oranges painted on them. And how the photos of her children, grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren were always displayed prominently in her living rooms. It always felt good to know that even know we didn't get to see each other very often that she must have passing thoughts about us on a daily basis.
Her place was always neat and tidy, a trait I sadly did not inherit. But she would quietly put up with messy grandchildren, and go around with the Windex later. One story I heard was when my family relocated to Wyoming, she actually left my little two-year-old handprints up on the windows and walls for a few days, then cried as she finally washed them away. She had said she left them up because she knew she wasn't going to see her little granddaughter for awhile.
On visits to her house, Gramma's basement was the fun spot! She would protest some about the Barbies that would get strewn all over the basement, the billiard balls left out on the pool table, and how her two youngest granddaughters would twirl themselves silly around the basement pole or on the bar stools. But she still let us be as long as we weren't too loud or fighting. But we were supposed to pick up afterward. And any toys that found their way into the laundry chute (again) managed to find their way back to the spare room with the day bed.
When she condensed and moved to her apartment, I sort of missed some of the toys, but by that point my cousin Sara and I had grown up out of the toy phase. Besides, there was something else Gramma let me use when it was time: the car. I was the fortunate one to inherit the "green turtle" 1977 Chevy Impala she and Grampa Clem bought brand new and kept in near-immaculate condition. It might've been a big older car (which was not fully appreciated by me at the time) but most everyone who rode in it noted how good of shape it was in.
As an adult, I got to observe and admire the quiet strength of my gramma when we were losing her son, my father, to a severe early onset of dementia. During their visits, I'd catch moments of her doting on him, just as it must have been when he was still her little boy. Both seemed to enjoy those little moments when they seemed to go back to that more simple time. At his memorial service, she was the one who was automatically offering the comforting words to me, assuring me that he was in a better place. Those words echo in my mind today as I think of her, finally going to be with her husband Clem and her son Marv. I know she will probably be one of the first ones we see when it's our time, welcoming us with hugs, reassuring words of Faith... and if we're lucky some of those wonderful congo bars.
I'll miss you, Gramma. All my love, Jenn
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One last hug goodbye for Great-Gramma... From her great-grandson who reminds us all of the son she lost.