Sunday, April 24, 2011

Little Mermaid, Ice Cream Cone Socks and A Cross for My Grandma

Today is Easter Sunday, a day of rejoicing in a risen Lord and celebrating the promise of tomorrows that we have because of Him.  It has also been a day filled with wonderful memories for me.  Once they started, it seemed like one just kept leading to another and I think I have pretty much smiled all day long.  Church was a great blessing, and after a quick hello to my husband's family, I hit the road and spent the afternoon with my mom and dad.  We had a wonderful time, and my Daddy was awesome today, looked good, joking, making faces and just making me giggle on the inside at his antics. It was good to see the smile on my mother's face as she enjoyed his efforts as much as I did.  She is his angel on earth and I admire her so much for everything she does for him and to encourage him.  Two very special people and it was absolutely wonderful to have them all to myself today!

It takes an hour to travel from my house to theirs and on my solo drives, I like to crank up the radio on the Christian music station and have one of my on-the-road-again talks with God and that's pretty much what I did today, both trips.  I talk, He listens, I smile and I know He does too.  After the wonderful day that I had, I just had to tell Him thank you for so many things, but especially the the memories of the special people in my life and how very thankful I was for each and every one of them, especially the ones that are already living in His Kingdom.

On December 14, 1989, I lost my Grandpa.  It is a day I won't ever forget.  He had been so sick for such a long time and he was so frail, but he wanted to live to celebrate his 80th birthday, which he did, and then he let go and made his final journey to be with God.  I remember the phone call, I didn't want to hear what was being said, but do any of us?  I had made the trip to Ohio just a couple of weeks earlier to see him, and some how, I knew that would be the last time.  My 4 year old princess was his doll baby and he loved her so much.  Before we left that last visit, he took her tiny hands in his and "waltzed" with her one last time.  That is my last memory of my Grandpa.  When the phone call came, it was not necessarily that it was unexpected, we knew, but at that very moment, it just became sadly real and almost unbearable.  It was the first time in a long, long time that I lost someone very special to me.

It's funny, the things that we remember when we think about loved ones that are no longer with us.  My husband and daughter and I joined my parents and brother and made the trip to Ohio for Grandpa's services.  My tiny dancer had a good memory of her Great Grandpa from our recent trip and I just didn't think she needed to be a part of the sadness and grief that would be part of his services, so it was decided that my husband would stay with her and they would have a special day all their own.  He took her to the movies and they went to see Disney's "Little Mermaid".  To this day, when I think about that trip, I don't remember the funeral, other than the ice and snow, but I remember "Little Mermaid" and my jubilant 4 year old and I remember her dancing with him just a couple of weeks before.  I can hear her singing "Under the Sea" in that tiny little voice that Grandpa loved so much.  Hmmm, makes me smile when I think about it.

I think I've shared with you in earlier blogs about how close I was to my mother's parents.  There were times that we shared a home with them, or lived a couple of blocks away.  Closeness was not always distance, but definitely always a special bond.  And, because I was the first, I had some special times with them.  I was the ONLY grandchild for over ten years, and my grandparents really did spoil me rotten.  I had the opportunity to do things with them that none of the other grandkids got to do.  I traveled with them a lot, and I had many first experiences with them like eating lobster with drawn butter and being serenaded by strolling violinists in a very fancy restaurant; oops'es like getting a fish hook caught in my Grandpa's thumb, learning to handle a little boat on a lake by myself (including getting stuck on the other side of the lake with a flooded motor), listening to his sermons, attending business meetings, rotary and visiting people that pinched my cheeks that weren't family!  Oh, and they even got to see me do a dolphin show once.  That was really cool.  I even have a picture of Grandpa petting one of my dolphins when I worked in Kansas City.  Well, you get the idea. Growing up was just that much more special because of the times that I got to spend with them, in more ways than one.

After Grandpa passed away, Grandma lived by herself for a while, and at some point, I don't remember exactly when, Grandma started dividing her time between my aunt's home in Ohio and my parent's home in Georgia.  She would go back and forth between the two.  Sometimes, when she was in Georgia, she would even come and stay with us for 2 or 3 weeks at a time.  We had so much fun, but especially if it was a holiday like Easter.  We dyed eggs and made suet pudding, a true delicacy in my family that we haven't had in years, because Grandma made it from scratch and the recipe was in her head!  There were things that Grandma and I did together that still make me smile, eating liver and onions being one of those!  I know, most of you are probably making a face right now.  My memory, I won't make you try it, so don't worry.  My grandmother, my mother and I are liver lovers!  Makes our cheeks rosy!

One particular Easter, Grandma came out to stay with us.  We crammed so much into just a few short days.  From making sure we got around to eat all of our favorites like the cole slaw at Chickfila, to liver and onions at Shoney's, dipped ice cream cones from Dairy Queen and the wonderful meals we made together, we just had the best time.  My 2 kids loved it when she came out here and often, while I was in the kitchen, she would have my son on the couch next to her, reading a book to him or watching cartoons and pretending that she understood what was going on.  Special bonds that made memories to last a lifetime.  Grandma was a spirited lady and she raised my mother to be the same way and my mother raised me the same way and I passed those same lessons on to my own daughter.  My mother still says that if the 4 of us were together, there would be nothing we couldn't accomplish!  She's right!

Grandma's health eventually began to decline.  Physically, she wasn't in great shape, but mentally, she stayed sharp as a tack until her final days.  One year, she suffered a hip injury from a pretty bad fall and after days in the hospital, they sent her to a rehabilitation center for her to continue recuperating.  That is where I found myself this morning and where this special memory begins.  I had finished getting ready for church and just needed a necklace.  Without even a second thought, I grabbed the first silver chain that I came to and pulled it out and dangling from the center of the chain, was a simple white gold cross with tiny gold lacings in the center.  It wasn't always mine, but, seeing it brought me such a smile.

One year for an anniversary gift, my husband gave me a cross, just like the one above.  I had other crosses, made from every material you can think of and each one more striking than the one before and for its own reason.  I even have one from the Vatican that had been blessed by Pope John Paul.  But none were near as special as this one.  I liked it because it was simple.  In the early spring of the year that followed that gift, we made a trip to Ohio to visit Grandma when she was recuperating.  I hadn't seen her in such a long time, but when we walked into her room, it was if no time had passed and I sat on her bed and we talked and visited and acted silly.  We sneaked in some fast food and ice cream for her too.  On that particular trip, she noticed my cross and gently lifted it away from neck for a closer look.  Her arthritic fingers gently rubbed its smooth surface and she told me how pretty it was and she too, liked it because it was simple.  From the cross on my chain, her glance went up and down as she studied me and she ended up looking at my feet and laughing.  "Kaye Lynn, what do you have on your feet?"   So, I grinned and showed off my silly socks with ice cream cones all over them.  And, she liked them and teased me and told me she wanted a pair. Visits being what they are, it ended all too soon and knowing that we were heading back to Georgia the next morning, I gave my Grandma a big hug and told her how much I loved her and whispered to her that I would try and find her a cross like mine.  

My promise proved to be a challenge.  It took a lot of phone calls and trips to the Christian book stores all over Atlanta, but after trying for a couple of weeks, I was able to find the last cross like mine in the entire city, making it even more special and I shared the story behind the search with the clerk in the store.  It made her tear up and we ended up talking about her grandmother as well.  But I had kept my promise and the cross would soon be on its way to Ohio.

You should know by now, that I have an ornery streak a mile long, and you should have also figured out by now that the gift package wasn't complete!  Of course not, I had to find her a pair of ice cream cone socks too!  You get some silly looks when you tell sales clerks that you are buying ice cream cone socks for your 94 year old grandmother!  Shopping complete, wrapped up and on its way to Ohio to bring a smile to my Grandma's face.

My spunky 94 year old Grandma got a kick out of those socks and she actually wore them!   But, the real special part of the gift was the cross and it made me very happy to know that she wore it all the time.  It was yet one more special thing that we shared, and something that will make me smile for a long time, which brings me back to this morning.  That simple cross ended up gently grasped in my fingers and for just a moment, I closed my eyes and saw my Grandma's smile and heard her laugh and call me Kaye Lynn.  What a wonderful way to start a day, especially Easter Sunday.  It wasn't until a few weeks after she passed away in 2004, that the nursing home contacted my aunt to let her know that they had some more of Grandma's belongings that they wanted to return to us.  One of those things was the cross that was a gift that I gave to her and it came back to me to cherish forever. Tucked away in some of her clothes was the infamous ice cream socks with her name typed onto a laundry tag on the foot of each one.

Seven years later, when I saw that cross glistening in my palm, it was like receiving a new gift because of the joy that rushed into my heart when I put it on and just smiled and whispered " I love you, Grandma".

Isn't it wonderful the way that God blesses us with those special moments, and sometimes when we seem to need them the most, they take us back in time and let us re-live cherished times with special people.  We all have that one little something that brings special people back to us in our hearts and minds.  Today, mine was a cross for my Grandma.

Today is Easter Sunday.  It's been a good day.  It's been a day filled with memories, rejoicing, family and beginnings.  I hope that over the past three days, that you've also had some of those special moments.  I hope that you've had the opportunity to reflect upon the greatness of the gift of these last three days and the time to be thankful for the tomorrows that we have because He lives!  Remember the hymn "Because He Lives"?  I hope yours was as blessed as mine has been and that you know that you know that you know that because He lives, YOU really can face tomorrow.

Rejoice!  He Is Risen!  Easter blessings to you and yours, and as always, In Christ Jesus, love to you all,
Kaye Lynn

Grandma, this is for you....I love you!