Writing and scrapbooking have always been a form of therapy for me, and in some cases, a form of grieving. Now, blogging is my release, it is my therapy! Today I am grieving. If you are not family, you may want to skip this post! I’m sure this will turn in to a novel, and that’s ok. The novel still won’t encompass all that Grandma meant to me. I hope to jot down some of my favorite memories of my Grandma here so that one day I can look back and remember and so that my kids will grow up knowing what a special lady she was.
As soon as I heard that my Grandma passed away, I quickly thought of my favorite pictures of her. Pictures mean so much to me- I cling to pictures. I know that may be silly- they are just objects. But the memories behind them are so clear in my mind. It’s as if I can look at a picture and remember that moment. As soon as I heard that Grandma passed away I thought of these photos, and several others that I haven’t had time to round up quite yet but I will in the coming days… and when I find them I will add them here.
This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. Obviously, this was my wedding day, June 24, 2000. Sadly, this is one of the last pictures where I truly feel like she was Grandma the way I remember her. In 2002 she became pretty immobile- she was bound to her wheelchair and bound to a nursing home. Not at all the way I remember her. She was still Grandma, but not the way I remember her here, where she could pick out her own clothes, fix her own hair, spray on her own perfume. I cherish this picture because she was so happy for me. Right after we took this picture she hugged me and said, “Jill, I’ve always prayed that you would find a good man, and my prayers were answered.” I remember her looking so beautiful on my wedding day.
I think I was just a little older than Emma in this picture…probably around 1983
Fast forward a few years, this is right before Homecoming Court, Junior Year, 1995:
Fast forward a few more years, here is Grandma and my Dad- this may be their last picture together before he died: (he was such a goof-ball!)
Christmas Day 2006: Emma was 1 week old!
Grandma and Emma:
Aleta Pauline Montgomery. I don’t even know where to begin. Grandma was an amazing lady. She was eccentric, she was hip, she was caring, she was giving, she was strong, she was gentle, she was sweet, she was bold, she was Aleta! And she was a very big part of my life.
Aleta was my Dad’s Mom. She was 91 when she passed away, after living in a couple of different nursing homes here in Tulsa for the past 10 years. These last 10 years are not the years that I want to remember, Grandma was not herself. Amazingly, her mind stayed in tact until the very end. But her body was so frail, so weak, and it just wasn’t how I remember her as my Grandma. Every day, she had to be fed, she had to be lifted out of bed into a chair, then to a wheelchair. Her quality of life wasn’t great, and due to that, I am so grateful that she now resides with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What I want to remember…
Grandma was one of the most eccentric people I have ever met. To begin with, she died her hair black but always had a silver streak in the front of her hair. Sometimes, the streak moved slightly and sometimes there were two streaks, but always a splash of silver. And she loved for people to notice her hair and compliment her silver streak… NOT gray, but SILVER. She had a hair appointment every week and she could not miss it- rain or snow, she was there. Barbara was her hairstylist and our entire family knew about Barbara. Not only was her hair eccentric, so were her clothes! I will never forget my rehearsal dinner when she showed up in a COW print dress, tight red patent belt, red 4 inch heel red patent shoes and cow print hoop earrings that were about 2 inches round. Talk about a head-turner! But I loved it! She shopped at Miss Jackson’s and Saks in Tulsa. If you don’t know about these stores, just think “expensive and trendy” She loved that they waited on her, they knew her, they took care of her. Her closet was “to die for.” 100 pair of high-heeled shoes. Don’t get me started on the jewelry- the most beautiful jewelry you’ve ever seen and tons of it… now my Emma gets to play dress up with this jewelry- not the expensive stuff, just the gaudy stuff! When she went out in public she was dressed “to the nines”, she never dressed down. We joked that she even dressed up for her doctor’s appointments. We kept telling her, Grandma, your doctors will not understand that you have all of these ailments if you keep showing up in your dress, high-heeled shoes, jewelry, strong perfume and full make-up, “You look too good Grandma!”
I went to visit her every summer for at least a week. I spent several days packing my red suitcase that had “Going to Grandma’s” printed on it. Usually my mom drove me half-way and Grandma picked me up at 86th St. North and then we headed to Bartlesville. In the front seat where I sat in her car she had a spiral index card notepad where we would begin to make our “list” for the next week. We made a list of all of the things we wanted to do together. Our list usually included going to the mall to buy some clothes, going to Luby’s to have some cherry pie, going to the Kiddie Park, going to the Water Park, playing miniature golf, making floral arrangements, making sugar cookies, going bowling, visiting Ms. Phillips at the nursing home, going to a movie, and the list goes on and on. Anything I wanted to do, we put on the list. And we always completed the list! Grandma spoiled me rotten. I mean ROTTEN! When I act spoiled today, I tell Robin, “Sorry, my Grandma made me this way!”
Grandma was a homemaker in the truest form. She lived to serve her family. She was devoted to her husband, devoted to her kids, and devoted to her Grandkids. And her attitude of love and service reached beyond her immediate family to extended family and strangers. I can think of many examples of times that she treated 2nd and 3rd cousins as her own children. She saw a need and met it. She cared for people with a servant heart.
Grandma loved gifts. I think this must have been her love language. She loved to buy for her family- to the point that she would hide credit card statements from Grandpa. We had Christmas at her house every morning until about 12 years ago when it just got to be too much for her. Up to that point, every morning, her house was filled with the Spirit of Christmas. I still have visions of her living room. It was SO comfortable, so fun. And that Christmas tree- my oh my- it was FULL of gifts. The gifts were about 3 feet deep and extended several feet into the living room. It was ridiculous really. Our family is pretty small. She loved to watch us open gifts and we spent a lot of time doing that on Christmas morning!
Grandma loved to garden. Just about every single time I visited her house she had multiple arranged floral vases out of her very own garden. We’re talking beautiful roses, snap dragons, peonies, etc. Her house smelled like flowers. She loved teaching me about taking care of the flowers, cutting, and arranging them. I remember one time my brother, parents, and I were on our way back from a Kansas trip and we decided to stop in and surprise Grandma and Grandpa un-announced. I was so excited to find out what Grandma did on a daily-basis when family wasn’t around. Did she sit and watch T.V? Take a nap? When we got there, we found her gardening in her backyard gardens: kneeling, pruning, pulling weeds. That made a huge impact on me for some reason! She was dedicated to her gardens. If it weren’t for all of the time that she spent caring for her gardens, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the beautiful arrangements every time we were there. She was dedicated to her flowers, the same way that she was dedicated to her family!
Grandma loved to cook. Man oh man, she loved to cook! Her Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas meals consisted of about 20 different dishes that we passed around the table. We were fairly gluttonous around her table but it was just understood. She had a clipboard with a checklist for all of the dishes that needed to make it to the table and my job was to check them off when they were ready. My memories of Thanksgiving meal included one or two turkeys, 3 different kinds of gravies for the various desires of various family members (with giblets and without/ white and brown), real green beans made in bacon grease (yes, you heard me right), sour cabbage (my Dad’s favorite), homemade mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, dressing, and the list goes on and on. Each and every time I visited her house, her hand-painted cookie jar was filled to the brim with from-scratch sugar cookies that were iced and decorated. Now that I’m a mom and have attempted this with Emma I realize how much work that must have been to have those prepared each and every time we visited! (and NO, I will not share her secret recipe! Just kidding.) She was also famous for her Strawberry Ice Cream- a recipe that her parents received when they got their very first freezer.
Grandma had her own food addictions as well. In addition to the amazing things she cooked up for us, she had a few cravings that I will always remember. During my teen and college years she developed a craving for glass bottled cokes- NOT plastic bottled, NOT canned- the old fashioned glass bottles. She would put them in the freezer for 13 minutes- NOT 10, NOT 15, but 13 minutes. :) It was just long enough for it to develop a crystalized iciness, but not frozen. When I would visit, we would each have one. We would sit and chat. It was amazing. Oh what sweet memories. I will think of her every time I drink a glass-bottled coke. Her other obsession was ketchup! Oh my goodness, just ask the nursing home folks! She was known as the ketchup lady! She ate ketchup on everything- vegetables, fruit, ice cream (ok, I don’t know about that, but almost everything.) She loved ketchup on eggs. At the nursing home they brought her 10 ketchup packets with every meal. I always thought this must be so unhealthy- all of that salt and sugar. But hey, she lived to 91 years old so it must not be THAT bad!
There are so many other little things about Grandma that I will always remember… like her telling all of the family including her grown adult children to “Go wash your little hands” before meals, her long magenta painted fingernails clicking along with the beat of the turn signal blinker while driving, her rubbing my back to sleep for an hour a more- long after I had actually fallen to sleep, her love for the songs “It’s a Small World” and “You Light Up My Life," her purple carpet in her bedroom because she loved the color purple and her pepto bismol colored utility room because she loved the color pink (even though family advised against it), the fact that my family was so excited when I learned to drive so that I could drive (instead of her!) when I went to visit, the times that we went on nature walks through her neighborhood when I was little and collected everything in a brown paper sack from Braum’s (my favorite item was always the cool pinecones that we found), the time that we went on a bird-watching boat trip and were so out of place (we were the only ones that didn’t bring binoculars) and we giggled the whole time, going to OK Mozart concerts and salivating over the pianist Robin Williams, her bringing me flowers to every one of my piano recitals, her sweet hand written notes (especially when I was in college and needed to hear from home), and the list goes on and on.
Last but not least…
Grandma loved the Lord. Every time I visited her and was there on a Sunday, we were in church. She attended First United Methodist Church and I loved going there. It was different from my Baptist Church… more formal, more fancy. It was nice for a change. Dad used to tell me stories of how it was a requirement that the kids attend church every Sunday. Even though my Grandpa didn’t attend, she made SURE the kids were in church every Sunday. It wasn’t just a ritual, it was a way of life. Every night that I spent the night with her we said our prayers, kneeling by the bed. Her prayers were heart-felt and true. When I was about 12 years old, I gave her an angel for Christmas, just because it reminded me of Grandma and I thought she would like it. On the card I wrote, “Grandma, you are an angel to me.” Of course she loved it (as any Grandmother would!.) But from that point on, Grandma and I began exchanging angels…for Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations, and any other excuse we could think of! She told me many times that I was an angel in her life and I told her she was an angel in mine. It thrills me more than words to realize that she is now a true angel in Heaven watching over my children and me.
Her maiden name was Montgomery. I am SO thankful that my parents gave me the middle name Montgomery. I used to hate it when I was little- kids made fun of it. Now I cherish it. I love having that piece of Grandma with me. We’ve always shared a special bond and we always will.
I thank the Lord for my Grandma and for the legacy that she left.
I’m thankful that she is now in peace and without pain.
Can’t wait to see you on the other side Grandma.