She was born December 26, 1920 in Hutchinson Kansas, the second child of four . . . Helen Eloise.
Her name means ‘light,’ and I dare say anyone who met her would agree it an appropriate moniker. A waif of a girl, she loved to read and sing. She could hit a baseball out of the ballpark. She always had a smile.
Not that her life was perfect, mind you. Her mama died young. She married a farm boy, moved away, and didn’t see her family for seven years. When an eighty thousand pound load of logs dumped on her husband, requiring a hospital stay of 5 months and a year’s worth of recovery, she juggled his care and the raising of five children, ages six months to eleven years–selling fresh baked bread and angel food cake on the side, just to stay afloat.
Even she would admit to a pity-party with that one. But one day, as she scrubbed and starched the clothes, she sent her grumblings to the Lord. While small in stature, you see, she stood tall in faith. God heard her despair, and put a song in her heart. She’d be quick to tell you that song remained all the days of her life.
So did that smile.
As a matter of fact, she was downright chipper. My mom still recalls the first slumber party with my aunt. Seven o’clock sharp on Saturday morning and her best friend’s mother flings open the bedroom door and sings, “Good Morning!”
That was my grama.
A grade school teacher, encouragement came second nature. For instance, when my brother first learned to speak, he called trucks ‘frucks.’ Determined to correct his pronunciation, she sat him down and said, “Truck. T-t-t . . . Truck.” My brother looked her in the eye, blinked, and let fly with an F-bomb, loud and clear as day. ‘Fruck is fine,’ she said.
And my writing? She was one of my biggest fans.
It was my grama Helen who helped jot down my stories before I learned to write. I still remember sitting next to her at the kitchen table, telling a tale–in all seriousness–of little mice, dancing around a Christmas tree. She wrote it all down, right above my illustrations.
Years later, before PCs and laptops, she helped start my first novel. I would write long-hand; she would type it out. She could never wait for the next chapter.
Just last summer, I dug that tattered ‘manuscript’ from the bottom of a box. From the way she went on, I thought perhaps it just needed a bit of a brush up–then I could finish it while she still lived. Alas, not so much. Perhaps her encouragement was simply a grandmother’s love, perhaps she truly saw promise. Perhaps it a little of both.
So many stories . . .
She touched a lot of lives in her 92 years. She made friends wherever she roamed. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in equal measure. She played no favorites. And once you were family, you were family.
A few years ago, I traveled with my grandparents to Oklahoma City for a family reunion. My grama loved her family reunions. On the plane, for the first time in my adult life, we had hours just to sit and chat. There were no errands to run, no Bingo or Quidler games to play–just her and me and hours to talk. She told me of life growing up; she told me how she and grandpa met. We shared our hopes and dreams.
I loved every minute.
So yes, our lives are a bit dimmer since she left. But I’m looking forward to eternity. I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off–strolling the streets of gold, arm in arm, chatting away.
Until then, I’ll think of her each time I tie my shoes, see a Harlequin Romance, or hear the sweet sound of a violin. With each word I write, I’ll imagine her still by my side.
If you didn’t get the chance to know her, you’ll catch a glimpse of her in my ridiculously narrow feet, blue eyes, and the peculiar habit of tapping my thumbs against the steering wheel to the beat of a song.
Should I live to see old age, I hope you’ll also see her in my smile. I hope to grow old gracefully: to see the best in each sitatation, to continue to learn and explore, to see a friend in each new acquaintance; to always hope, always pray, always have a song in my heart . . . just like my grama.