Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Singing Has Only Begun

My Grandma loved life and loved to laugh.
From the simple –
Saskatoon berries and fresh raspberry jam –
To the more involved –
like purposely pouring tea from her plastic cup onto her plastic saucer to create a vacuum and have a the saucer rise to her mouth as she sipped. We would giggle waiting for the saucer to fall, each eating the 3 or 4 Smarties we had to eat with our tea.

As I spent time with my cousins this week preparing for my Grandma's funeral,
we came up with lots of little details –
lots of ways that she made the most of each opportunity.

Grandma loved having her grandkids over.
There were sleepovers in the basement of the old house
in the room with the old record player and the pink stitched quilts.
We could always count on Mountain Dew in the fridge
and a roll of orange or red RANG candies for the drive home.
If we were lucky, we would have Fruitella candies, too.
Grandma loved to spoil us with sour cream and onion rings and cheezies and we were reminded of what a treat it was to her when we were given the exact serving size. Grandma would have us over to bake shortbread cookies sliced from a roll and to make ollie-ballen over the stove.
Ice cream at Grandma’s came from the 2L boxes –
in slices on a plate as opposed to scoops in a bowl.
Currants were served rolled in sugar,
and meatballs were counted as each ladle-ful was poured out.
It was always a competition.

No matter how we handled ourselves in her home,
Grandma was never upset with us.
We could spill or break a rule,
and somehow we always felt that she was gentle and like we had done nothing wrong.

Grandma was sneaky and had what we might call the Scheper family’s ability to enjoy finding the loopholes in life in a seemingly innocent way, laughing about it as she went; from cheating at board games, using Dutch words in Scrabble, to making a profit on the brown eggs we sold to her from our own chicken coop as she sold them to her friends at Summit Village for a higher price.

Grandma was affectionate for someone from her generation.
We always knew without a doubt that we were loved.
We sat on her lap and received many strong hugs.
Even when she could no longer find English words to tell us how she was feeling,
she would squeeze our cheeks and give us “kusses” on both cheeks,
grinning from ear to ear.

Grandma loved adventure –
from the trip across the ocean long before our time,
to determining that she should go down the slide at the children’s park,
breaking her ankle on the way down.
Until she was at least 80,
she was taking the stairs and kicking her leg over her shoulder
to show us how flexible she was.
As much as we put our arms out for safety and held our breath,
she was relentless and proved our fears wrong each and every time.

Grandma’s childhood memories came to us in chuckles as she would tell of how they each smoked a cigarette for dessert after supper. When we visited as teens and adults, she would sit on the porch with those who smoked, smile, and inhale deeply, saying, “Blow it in my face!”

As we said our final goodbyes to Grandma this week,
we acknowledged that we have in many ways been saying good-bye for the last number of years.
It has been difficult watching her slip away,
but we have also had opportunities to see her laughter and joy in the simple things come out more clearly.
Grandma said good-bye very well. She would wave in the hallway as we left her apartment in Summit Village until we were around the corner. When we walked to our cars, she moved to the balcony and continued to wave as we drove out of the parking lot.

As one of us said this week, “Each time I think of her before and from here on, I will have many reasons to laugh.”
"Man-a-life," she might say, and we’d echo her voice and say she was more than a "honderd percent."

A few r-rolling tra-la-las are a good addition to an already incredible choir.
91 years is a long time,
and Grandma has only started singing.