I have a rather special love for my grandma. She always told me she thought I was beautiful, then would mention traits I had that she felt made up that beauty. Some were physical, others were more important--a good deed she had witnessed, a talk I had given at church, kindness shown to others. When my grandma spoke to me I felt that I was very special, and I believed that I must be beautiful.
Grandma loved the gospel. She served a mission with Grandpa when I was nine years old. She and Grandpa studied the scriptures intently. They were well-versed, but humble about their knowledge and always willing to learn from another person. Still, Grandma never thought she would ever be good enough for that Celestial Kingdom. I believe if she hasn't earned a spot there, no one else will, either.
Grandma had her weaknesses. As I said before, she was a true farmer's wife, which means if you were present in the barn at milking time, you might be admonished by her to avoid stepping in that "shit," or she might just be milking a "damned cow." Swearing was not allowed in my family. I have never heard my father swear, and my mother--only once or twice. So Grandma's colorful language was something of a novelty. I have a couple of cousins (boys) who are older than I, who were visiting Grandma and Grandpa one evening during milking time. One was five years old at the time. He showed up at the house, found his mother and told her, "You know what? Grandma has a cow with a really funny name." His mom (Grandma's direct descendent) asked, "Really? What's it's funny name?" My cousin said, "That cow's name is 'Dirty Bastard'." Then he dissolved into giggles, "Isn't that a funny name? I never heard that before!" Apparently the incident inspired a Mother/Daughter heart-to-heart, and Grandma toned down the barn-talk when the kids were present.
Grandma was eminently practical. We always knew that for our birthdays we would receive from her a month's supply of lunch tickets. As we got older, we might also receive shampoo/conditioner, pantyhose, or a slip. We forgave her all that because at some point everyone received a beautifully pieced, intricately handstitched quilt, and on our 16th birthdays, the girls received a cedar chest. The boys, to their chagrin, just got money in their mission funds. Nothing fun for them.
My Grandmother taught me things I could not learn from my mother. She was always aware of the antagonism I harbored for my mom, and often diffused arguments or anger. I spent much time at Grandma's house, helping her with chores, making bread or a meal, and listening to her talk. Sometimes she would pull out her worn photo album and show me pictures of me as a baby, and of course, she would say, "You were just about the most beautiful baby I've ever seen!!" and I believed her. Then she would tell me I was even more beautiful now, and show me pictures of my father as an infant, toddler, young boy, and man. We would look over the photos of her daughter who died in her second year, and Grandma would weep as she told me stories of the sweet little girl she missed so much. When Grandma passed away, we found, tucked away in the back of a drawer, a pair of tiny pink mittens belonging to the toddler aunt of mine. I cried when I saw them, remembering how much my Grandma loved her daughter, picturing Grandma holding the mittens, wishing she could cuddle the hands that would have worn them.
When my grandma passed away, I went to her funeral. I felt her beside me, supporting me, loving me, as she had done all my life. And amazingly, she came home with me, following the funeral, and spent some time with me. During that time I learned many things about this life and the one that follows. I was strengthened and prepared for something that was coming--I knew there would be a difficult trial--I had no idea what it would be. She made certain that I knew she was mindful of me, that she loved me, that I would not be alone.
In the midst of all I have been through this year, all I have remembered, worked through, ached about, wrestled with, I had almost forgotten her amazing gift to me. I was reminded on Christmas day--through something completely unrelated. A conversation with my sister triggered a memory and all that had been given to me was brought to my remembrance. I have a feeling Grandma would be a little unhappy with my weakness. I'm not sure she would be proud of my bitterness, hatred, self-centeredness, and anger. I think she would wish that I could work through things with more grace and less agony.
But in spite of all that, in spite of everything, I know she would embrace me, tell me how beautiful she thought I was, and then she would tell me she loved me and she was privileged to have a granddaughter like me. And she would mean it. I adore my grandmother. It feels good to have someone like her on my side. She makes me feel that I can make it through anything. I can become strong. I can become the person she believes I already am.