In memory of grandparents

Earlier this week we said goodbye to my Granny Blair, and as is often the case the past several days have been bittersweet. We mourn the loss of someone's presence, the hugs and conversations and the comfort of just being with them. Perhaps we mourn the passing of time, or maybe a recent loss makes us think of other people to whom we've had to say goodbye. But then there is the sweetness of gathering with family and friends, of sharing and remembering and telling stories, and of my cousin Tod's absolutely perfect eulogy during my Granny's funeral service.

Sifting through memories this week has also got me thinking about my other grandparents -- I will never stop being thankful that I had two sets of wonderful grandparents that I got to grow up knowing and loving.

For most of my life, we lived one block away from my Grandma and Grandpa Rush's house. I remember when I was finally old enough to walk to their house by myself -- my mom watching me from the end of our driveway and Grandma waiting for me at the end of hers. There were always cookies in the cookie jar and treasures to play with. Grandma and Grandpa Rush were a little spicy -- not afraid to speak their minds or have a loud discussion -- which taught me that you could argue with someone and still love them, and that sometimes the best kinds of stories are told at full volume and end in belly laughter. They were generous and loyal and loved fiercely. Grandma taught me about the importance of faith, and Grandpa about the beauty of second chances. My grandma taught me that potato soup is perfect when you're sick, that feeding people is a lot of fun, how to find a good sale, and an appreciation for soap operas and Golden Girls. Grandpa taught me that tomatoes are best eaten straight off the vine and warmed in the sun, and that the only kind of iced tea is sun tea.

Granny and Grandpa Blair's house sat up on a hill in the Ozark mountains in Southern Missouri. There were trees to climb, a garden to work in, woods to play in, swimming holes to splash in when the weather was hot. In winter there was a wood stove to heat the house, piles of blankets to curl up under, and homemade hot chocolate or mulled cider. There were games to play, cousins to play with, fudge, no-bake cookies, and stacks and stacks of books to get lost in. Visiting relatives was a frequent occurrence. Grandpa was gentle and quiet -- unless you started arguing politics with him -- and you could usually find him working on a project, reading, listening to talk radio, or drinking a cup of coffee. He usually had at least one grandkid trailing him and "helping" and he was always so patient and never seemed to mind. Granny was a school teacher who'd started her career in a one room school house before getting a Master's degree in education in a time and place when that wasn't exactly the norm. She always had a sparkle in her eye and was always ready for a hug. She loved words as much as I do -- I'm pretty sure my love of books, crossword puzzles, and Scrabble were very much influenced by Granny's love of those things too. Granny and Grandpa taught me that a rich life has nothing to do with material wealth, and that there's always room at the table for one more.

Make no mistake -- everything I learned through my Grandparents was simply observed and absorbed. They were lessons passed down not in words, but in action and family culture and love, passed down through their own lives as well as that of my parents. They're lessons that are only clear once I take the time to pause, and think, and remember. Lessons that come to mind when I answer my cousin-in-laws question: what kind of memories do you have of being at your grandparent's house? Lessons I hope I pass down to my own kids, even as they make their own memories and weave their own unique part of the family tapestry.

Were my grandparents perfect? Of course not. But they were pretty great, and I'm glad they were mine.