Monday, December 16, 2013

Going Home

I'm sitting on pins and needles. Every time my phone buzzes, I jump. I'm waiting for The Call, the horrible, wonderful call that will tell me my precious Granny has finally stepped over the threshold of eternity, a place where she has been hovering for the last week. On one hand I hate it, because she will exist only in our memories here in this world. On the other hand, I want to jump up and down and rejoice. Why? Because 96 is OLD, and she has been trapped in a useless body and worn-out mind for the last few years.

Meet my beautiful Granny, Flora. She was born in 1917 in Amoy, China, where her father was a German customs officer. She spent her early years there in China, in a beautiful home by the bay. When her father passed away, she moved to Germany with her mother and sister for a short time, before settling in the United States. She and my Grandpa met on the campus of Stanford University many many years ago. It didn't take long before they fell in love and were married.

She worked hard, lived frugally, and cared meticulously for her husband while he went through Stanford Medical School. After he graduated, they bought a tiny house in a tiny town on the edge of the country, and Grandpa set up his medical practice. They welcomed their first child--my Uncle Jack--in 1944. My Auntie Maggie was born in 1947, followed by my mom, Lotte, in 1949. Grandpa was beloved by all, and was well known throughout the town and surrounding area. Behind the scenes, enabling him to be successful, was a quiet, gentle, faithful woman: my Granny. He called her Schatzi--a German term of endearment meaning "sweetheart." I don't believe I have ever seen a woman more devoted to her husband. To say she adored Grandpa is an understatement! He was equally devoted to her. They loved to do just about anything together. Their favorite pastimes, though, were ballroom dancing (they danced beautifully), political activism, and world travel. They especially loved to take cruises.

They also loved their grandchildren, of which I am the 5th of 6. My memories of them are rich and plentiful, due to their active involvement in my life. I could go on all day about the memories, but because no one wants to read a whole book, I'll just share a few of the most important.

This photo was taken on my adoption day in 1980.

My parents struggled with infertility for years, and were finally told they would never have biological children. Granny knew how badly my parents wanted children, so she took matters into her own hands. Because of Grandpa's medical practice, he and Granny knew many doctors. Granny contacted an OBGYN whom she greatly respected, and asked him if he ever had babies become available for adoption in his practice. She told the doctor about my parents, and he agreed to keep his ears open. Nine months later I went home with my forever mom and dad. All because of Granny. I don't know where I would be without her. I've always been extra special to her because of the role she played in bringing me into our family. Grandpa called me Eminy. Granny called me Emmy-Angel.

When I was very little, I used to love it when Granny came over because she would play tea party with me. She made real tea for my tiny tea set, and she knew the names of my dolls. She would help me divide up Cheerios and raisins among my dolls and stuffed animals so they could party with us. Then, she'd help me eat up all the treats, using special voices for each doll or animal.

She was a brilliant seamstress, crafting lovely clothing. She made many beautiful dresses for me. My favorite things that she sewed, though, were the soft flannel nightgowns she made for me every Christmas. When I got a little older, she made matching nightgowns for me American Girl doll and me. My daughters still wear and play with those nightgowns!

One day when I was around 5 or 6 years old, I got in trouble for eating one cookie more than I was supposed to at a family party. I went out to my playhouse in the backyard and cried. I felt like my mom was being totally unfair to me, and I was unwilling to admit my wrong. Granny went into my bedroom and found a specific book that she knew I had. It was the story of a little girl who stole her sister's brownie, ate it, and then blamed it in the dog. The mom knew what had really happened, and the little girl got in trouble. The story walked through the little girl's emotions as she faced the reality of what she had done. It finished with explaining 1 John 1:9--"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Granny squeezed into my little playhouse with me. She held me close and read me that book. She talked about the freedom that comes from confessing our wrongdoings to God, asking for forgiveness, and making things right. She prayed with me and for me. She helped me memorize that verse. And she went with me and held my hand while I apologized to my mom for disobeying and for having a hard heart. I will never forget that. Not ever!

Another fond memory is going dancing at the American Legion Hall with Granny and Grandpa. Once a month the hall served a delicious roast beef dinner and hosted a band to come play wonderful old dance music. All of us cousins were often invited to go dancing with Granny and Grandpa. Safe and secure in Grandpa's strong arms, I learned ballroom dancing. Not the stuff you see on the TV shows, but classic old ballroom. Granny instructed me on how to hold myself, and how to let the man do the leading. She also danced with me when we did line dances. How I loved those evenings!

Granny and Grandpa came to everything we did. They were at all my piano recitals, orchestra concerts, vaulting competitions, graduations, and goat shows. They were at every birthday party, school function, and holiday. They always came over on Christmas Day. Grandpa always wore the plaid wool pants that Granny had made for him. She usually wore a coordinating scarf. Grandpa played with my sister and her new toys. Granny snuggled with me on the couch, read my new Christmas books to me, and helped me eat the chocolate out of my stocking. She loved chocolate. She always brought us persimmon cookies, which were pretty much the most disgusting things ever! Ha ha!

She wasn't a great all. However, there were a few things she made really well, things I still cook in my own home and remember her by. Bread pudding. Split pea soup. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Ham with raisin sauce and scalloped potatoes. Milkshakes. When I'd sleep over at her house, she always made Malt-0-Meal for breakfast, and she let me put in as much brown sugar as I wanted.

She taught me how to sew, starting when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 13, I was a proficient seamstress. I still love to sew, and I attribute that to Granny. For my 12th birthday, she made me the most beautiful dress with huge puffed sleeves (I was in an Anne of Green Gables phase). In this photo, I'm wearing the dress. You can't really see it because I'm behind my cousins, but you get the idea.

In 1997, Grandpa had heart surgery, followed by a stroke. His personality changed (for the worse). His balance became poor. He could no longer take food by mouth. He required round-the-clock care. Granny would not allow nursing help to come into the home. For two long years she tenderly cared for Grandpa, forgiving his crabbiness and meeting his every need. When my grandpa died in 1999, Granny just shrunk into herself. All her confidence and zest for life melted away. It didn't help that at the same time, my mom--Granny's youngest child--was battling ovarian cancer. Granny really began to age that year. She requested a copy of the eulogy I wrote for Grandpa and carried it everywhere with her. She gave away copies of it. She read and reread her copy until it fell apart. I don't think it was anything that special, but it meant a lot to her.

Granny loves her great-grandchildren. We went to California this summer and spent some good, quality time with her. Here's a photo of her with my kids.

Now Granny's time has come. All of her family has gotten to either visit her or Facetime with her to say goodbye. She has peace with God and the blessing of her two living children, six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. Great-grands #17 and #18 (mine and my cousin John's) are both due on April 17th. Her life has been rich and full, and no one could ask for more than that. She is fading fast. Last night hospice informed our family that Granny will slip away within the next 24 hours. It is time for her to go. Oh, how I wish I could see her entry into Heaven! My heart hopes that my mom and Grandpa will be waiting at Heaven's gates for her. My cousin wrote in her blog that she thinks Grandpa will come running out, and will waltz Granny into Heaven. There are 14 great-grandchildren waiting there, too--babies that my cousins and I have lost through miscarriage and stillbirth. Will they be there with my mom and Grandpa, too? What joy!

I cry because Granny's passing ends a season that has been constant in my life since I was born. I cry because I will miss her sweet, gentle presence. But I rejoice in a life lived well. I love you, Granny. As I said on Facebook the other day, thank you for loving me so well.

All my love,


Amy S said...

My sympathies on the impending loss of your dear Grandmother. You were lucky to have her, and she was obviously very lucky to have you too.

Rachel McDonald said...

my word Emily.... i have few words. my heart burst with love and joy at the life of your grandparents. the legacy the left for you all. what joy that you and your family get to pass along their legacy too with stories and photos not just for your families but to us, your adoring fans. to bring us hope and joy that love like that exists and builds great families for this dying crying world. blessings on your sweet matriarch, your grammy. what a darling soul. and blessings on you all as you walk through this tough part of life. much love. rachel