Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grandma Ginny

Admittedly, I am terribly awkward in emotional situations and never know the right things to say or do.  This is why I either eat or write my feelings and why I am currently wiping chocolate chip cookie grease from my hands in order to try to think of the right words to write words to capture something important.  I want to somehow do justice to my Grandma Ginny.  The good news is that when you are a true original and classic like Ginny, the stories really write themselves.

There are so many things that are quintessential Grandma Ginny that the only trouble is knowing where to start.  Many of my earliest and many of my fondest memories of her involve holidays.  She prided herself on taking each of her grandchildren out for a date on their birthdays.  I was treated to years and years of these, with dinners at Ponderosa (one of her favorites) or Finley's (one of my favorites) followed by a trip to a toy store to pick out whatever my heart desired.  I remember there was one year when I had my heart set on a baby doll that was more than the amount I was supposed to spend.  Grandma tried for a few minutes to convince me how fabulous the other toys were, but she ended up caving and getting me the doll anyway.  There was another year when she somehow got lost on the way back to our house, and I fell asleep in the passenger seat, no help to her.  If I'm remembering right, there were deer involved.  We got an extra long date that year!  Classic Ginny.

I have to say, though, that the greatest gift my grandma ever gave to me was my dad.  It is clear to anyone who knows the man that he is that she and my grandpa did something right... a lot of somethings.  I never got to meet my grandpa, but the parts of my grandma that show up in Dad are clearly recognizable, from his stubborn nature to the silly faces and noises that he makes.  It takes a good woman to be a great mother (she was to six kids, a slew of grandkids, and even a bunch of great grandkids), and I think it takes an even greater woman to raise a great man.  Dad is proof of how well she did in that area.

The gifts didn't stop with her own family, though.  She started a family tradition of taking in "strays".  I don't just mean the cats she'd always leave food outside her door for, either.  There were lots of human strays, too. I remember my dad talking about how she'd make them share toys with random kids from the orphanage that she'd have over at their house, and I can remember countless holidays where we'd all be elbowing each other and whispering, wondering who in the world all of the guests were.  As the kids and grandkids grew older, we started to bring our own strays around for the holidays, friends who needed a place to go, and they were always welcomed with open arms and without question.

Many other great memories were made on Christmas Eve.  This was always at Grandma's house, where she was surrounded by her kids and grandkids and some darn good cheesy potatoes and cocktail weenies.  Grandma was an excellent cook, and although some claimed sometimes that she "ate like a bird", I'm not sure there was ever a Christmas Eve where she didn't end up with some food on herself and on the floor.  I'd like to think that maybe I got those things from her.  It wasn't Christmas Eve without an awkward weenie joke made by someone, the potatoes setting on fire, and Grandma scratching off a pile of scratch off tickets while asking "Now why'd you do that? You shouldn't have done that!" about all of her other gifts. Classic Ginny.

I'll never forget the Christmas Eve when Tom and I were newly engaged, and I brought him around to meet my Dad's family for the first time.  As was customary, we left our shoes in the dining room and headed to the living room to hang out.  A few minutes later, we heard Grandma in the dining room.

"Whose shoes are these?"
"They're Tom's shoes, Ma," my dad said.
"Ooh.  Good for Jess!"

Thus, Tom was welcomed into the family.  Classic Ginny.

You see, Grandma Ginny was never shy about anything. This was apparent from her unabashed love of the"Talk Sex with Sue Johanson" tv show, her shameless flirting, and the TMI real talk she shared with us.  I found this gem of advice from her in one of my first blogs ever from Christmas Eve

"If you please your man, he won't mess around on you. I used to do it with your grandpa every Saturday morning. That's how Terry and Lynn were made."

Grandma's audacity even led us to coin a term for her that has been used with delight by our family for years. It began when we were visiting her one day, and she offered us a piece of a dessert she had made.  We refused because it was supposed to be for a potluck she was going to, and we didn't want to be rude.  It wasn't until we looked at what she was offering that we realized that there was already a piece missing and cracked up.  Her philosophy?  She made it.  She ought to be able to try it whenever she wanted!  A few years ago, I had an assignment for a grad class that required me to bring something in for a potluck that represented something about my family heritage or history.  I beamed with pride as the entire class delighted at my Ginny'd dessert. Classic Ginny.

There was also a softer side.  Another earlier memory I have of Grandma Ginny was when I was sick.  I was having digestive issues and was absolutely miserable.  She stayed with me, rubbed my back all day, and showed me compassion even when I was cranky and stinky.  That's classic Ginny too.

Even at 92 years old, Grandma was a woman with almost as many hobbies as years under her belt.  She golfed and bowled late into her life.  Even when she didn't do either super well, she did them with gusto!  She liked to go on senior trips and to casinos, and we'd joke about how she'd always be the one that "wandered off the tour."  She collected perfume bottles that filled shelves and shelves all over her house.  She was an avid church goer and involved in all kinds of church business.  She worked at the Jackson Space Center for years after my grandpa passed away and introduced us to space ice cream, something I still love to find in museum gift shops.  She kept up with the latest gossip and goings-on through listening to a police scanner and even called one time as we were discovering our house had been robbed to make sure we were okay. She filled pages and pages of diaries.  Given what she was willing to share publicly, I can only imagine what those private thoughts must hold.  She never had a computer or took to the internet, but I bet she could have written a blog that would have given people something to talk about!  She always sent cards for birthdays and anniversaries and cracked us up with her comments when we'd call to thank her.  She was a busy lady who was never too busy to spend time with her family or let them know that she loved them.  It was all just classic Ginny.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention what was arguably her most classic line of all.  No matter what came her way, Grandma always had two simple words for any situation: "I'm fine."  Maybe it was the stubborn Spencer woman in her that refused to admit that there might ever be something she couldn't handle.  The freezer went kaput? She turned it into a pantry.  She was clumsy and always taking a spill somewhere?  The way she remembered it, she used to jump over barrels on ice skates.  Maybe the "I'm fine" came from the fact that she had been through so much that even the big things could seem little to her.  She survived giving birth to six children, breast cancer, the death of her husband and a son, and anything else that came her way. Even as she was in her last few hours, semi-conscious and barely able to speak, my dad reported that she was still insisting to her sister, "I'm fine."  It doesn't get more classic Ginny than that.

Grandma, you left a mark on all of us who loved you.  You Ginny'd our world, and there will always be a piece missing now that you're not in it anymore.  You will live on in your sassy daughters, your sons who aren't afraid to be sensitive, and the hilarious memories you created for all of your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Thanks for always taking us in your arms, pecking our cheeks, and telling us that you loved us very much.  There is comfort in knowing that for the first time in decades, you will be in the arms of the men you have loved all your life: your beloved Buysse, your Tim, and your Heavenly Father.

"Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I will give you rest."

Rest peacefully tonight, Grandma.  Judging by the thunder we're having here tonight, there's a rowdy game of bowling for you to join with Grandpa tomorrow.  Love you.