Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Growing up Graham

My Maternal Grandparents are Grahams. My grandfather passed to the next life in January 1990, over 21 years ago! My grandmother returned to his loving embrace on Thursday, September 29th, at 9:09pm PST. She didn't wake Monday after suffering what they suspect was another stroke. She had her first in May 1996. She was treated with "Comfort Care" at the Kaiser South Hospital in Sacramento. All family members, in their own way, are saying good-bye to this amazing, talented, loving woman. I can’t help but reflect on both Grandparents, as they have always been my measure of a committed, covenant keeping, faithful couple.

Grandpa and Grandma Graham
Theirs is a story of love at first sight. It goes something like this... In the 1930s, my grandpa was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called to serve in the California mission. My grandmother was in her early 20s living at home with her parents and working for Breuner's Furniture store, home was Sacramento, California. My grandpa and his companion were being transferred from Roseville to...I'm not sure...but I do know that Pearl (my grandma's cousin) was the one to drive them into Sacramento to the home of my great-grandparents. When they arrived they visited in the front room where a picture of my grandma was sitting on the mantel. (She was not yet home from work.) While looking at the photo of my grandma my grandpa said, "Elder, that's the woman I'm going to marry." And he did!

My earliest childhood memory of my grandmother and grandfather was in the summer of 1985 when I was 3 turning 4. My mother was close to her due date with my sister, Heather, and my siblings and I were sent to stay with grandparents and an aunt and uncle, in rotation. I remember walking from the side door around to the back of the house and seeing Grandma and Grandpa sitting on the back patio. They always seemed so relaxed together.

Within a year and a half of that memory they were gone on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Ireland. We lived in their home while they were there. I remember receiving letters from them. My grandmother was always the one to write them. Sometimes there were pictures of them visiting ruins, sometimes with investigators or recent converts. I always loved to see what was going on with them. I know that it is because of their service as a Senior Missionary couple that I have the goal with my husband to serve, hopefully, multiple missions together.

About that time I caught on to a tradition that has since passed from our family. A Family Newsletter. Every family, and sometimes individual kids, would submit a letter to…someone. At the time of their mission it was either my mom or my Aunt Mary, can’t remember. The letters would be copied and then sent out to each family so that everyone would know the going on’s of everyone else. If there was a struggle that you needed fasting and prayers for that was how you let everyone know. [Facebook has now ‘kind of’ taken over that role for us.] My grandma always wrote a letter to everyone.

When they returned home from their mission we had a family get together at a LDS meetinghouse. [When we all get together we HAVE to use a meetinghouse. These two were prolific: 8 children, their spouses, 33 grandchildren, great-grandchildren all for over 130 descendants!] I remember my grandma sitting me down with me and sharing a claddagh ring with me. Many times have I wished I knew where that ring has disappeared to.

At a BBQ gathering at my Uncle Lynn’s in Elk Grove my grandpa offered to change my little brother’s diaper for my mom. My mom, siblings and grandma went inside ahead of us and I waited with him. The thing was he couldn’t do it! I remember getting all giggly and saying, “Grandpa, that’s not how you do it! You’ve got to turn the diaper around!” He looked at me and said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve done this and I’ve never used one of these things.” Shaking the diaper. I took the diaper from him and said, “I’ll show you…” And that is how I taught my grandpa to change a disposable diaper at age 7.

When I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 8, I remember my grandma gave a talk about the Holy Ghost. She gave the talk directed at me, to ME. She told me how I would feel it, like a warm blanket being wrapped around me. That some times I might hear a still small voice. She instructed me to keep the commandments I had been taught and to listen to my parents, that if I did those things the Holy Ghost could be with me and guide me to do what was right. After the talk I was placed on a chair in a circle of men holding the priesthood, my father, grandfathers, and uncles stood around me and placed a hand upon my head. The weight was great, but the emotions were stronger. I felt love like I had never felt before, like I was being wrapped in the biggest, warmest, comfiest blanket ever. When the blessing was complete I shook hands and hugged each man in the circle, then I went to my mother climbed into her lap and asked her, “What is this feeling?” My mom replied, “That is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, telling you that what you’ve done today is good and he loves you. Remember this feeling. Hold on to it.”

My grandpa’s hands were large to my child-sized hands, and oh so smooth. In the palm of his right hand (I think) he had a scar, it was about and inch in length and 1/4” in depth and diameter. I remember likening his scar to the wounds Jesus received while on the cross at Calvary. When I am thinking on my Savior and his death, so all of us could be redeemed from death, I think of how I would hold Grandpa’s hand in church on Sunday when we would visit. Gently stroking the scar up and down, up and down. Also, during Sunday services he wore a hearing aid attachment that helped him to hear the speakers, once he let me put it in my ear. I remember thinking how weird it was to have something in my ear, now I am spotted often with a bluetooth semi-permanently attached to my ear.

My grandparents lived in the same small 3 bedroom Ranch-style home for the majority of their marriage. It was located 3 blocks Southeast of William Land Park in Sacramento and about 4 blocks Northeast of a Raley’s grocery store. We were over for dinner and we needed a few items. My father and grandpa were walking to the Raley’s and I asked to come along. While we were in the let me push the cart and more importantly to me, he let me sit on the bottom rack of the cart. I remember I was able to sit up straight and not touch the bottom of the top shopping basket. I also remember them swinging me between them.

My grandfather loved a little sweet. :) When having breakfast with him and my grandmother I remember he poured himself a bowl of Cheerios, pour some milk over top, then sprinkled sugar over the top. I asked him, “Grandpa, why did you add the sugar?” “I just needed a little sweet to start my day.” For many years after that I too put a little sugar on my Cheerios after pouring on the milk, that is a very important step. 

After my grandfather passed I remember helping my mom and aunts clean out my grandma’s house, and hidden away in various corners of the pantry were Hostess “Ho Ho’s” and “Twinkies”. I have since learned that my grandma was concerned about his health and tried to keep him away from sweets. This was one of his silent rebellions.

A Woman of many Talents

My grandmother was a wife of a California State worker and a stay-at-home mother to 8 children (5 boys, 3 girls) in the 1940s-80s. Do you think she had many financial resources? No, I don’t think so. So what did she do? She followed the counsel of the prophets and increased her talents.

Dec 1984_scarves
These beautiful knitted hats and scarves were created with a knitting machine by my Grandma. Kristen’s red and white set (on the right) is still around. So is Josh’s (in the middle), but my tan and white have been erased from memory except in this picture and the memory of lovingly using them as a child.
I also still have my machine-knitted acrylic variegated-orange blanket created on this very machine. And 6 years ago my mom gave me her brown and blue machine quilted blanket. I remember sitting outside her workroom and listening to the “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-……….whooooosh” rhythm repeat again and again. And who can forget the confusing intricacy of the threaded yarn, it looked like a GIANT serger with the threads looped through a long skinny metal wire before heading to the machine.Also, she was the one who taught me the basics to knitting. I never finished the blanket I started with her help, but because of that exposure at a young age I’ve been able to pick it up now. I’ve knitted a couple of humanitarian aid wraps, a sweater (which still needs finishing touches), and multiple washcloths.

supperlaceShe taught herself to crochet. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: washcloths, hot pads. You are sorely mistaken. She found an instruction sheet to recreate DaVinci’s “Last Supper.” (To the RIGHT, this is a machine rendered lace of the same design.) A coveted family treasure that has been debated over who gets it. I’m not even sure which child does have it. I do know that my mother is NOT the one who got it, which is just fine by her because she would much rather make it herself. Last year I found the instructions online from the same Berkeley company my grandmother originally ordered it from back in the 1960’s. I assembled the needles and thread she would need to complete the project and gave it to her for Christmas. I’ve already called dibs. ;)

In my experience, the majority of my grandma's quilting was quick and functional. Find a fabric with a pattern that repeats so you can quickly tie it together. Only sometimes for very special occasions would she actually  use a "quilting" stitch on the blanket.
For my 13th birthday, I got to pick out material from my grandma's stash. (Yes, she had a stash. A closet in one of the bedrooms was full from ceiling to floor with fabric. My mom has carried on the tradition and now has a room devoted to fabric crafting in her home.) We set it on a quilting frame and quilted it, not tied. It was my first experience "quilting" and I had friends and siblings come by throughout the day to help. I loved that day, it is one I still treasure. And the completed quilt? It is still around today, Leah thinks it should be in HER room. What!?! I guess it does fit her bed and not mine, okay.

I have several memories of quilting with my grandma and her girlfriends. A collection of cousins, life-long friends and Church members. I loved sitting with those women it was so great to talk to them, listen to them, and just hear them tell the stories of the past. It was during one of those quilting sessions that I heard Pearl tell her side of my grandparents love story.

The last memory I have of my grandmother as a vibrant, active woman was of her in her home climbing under and walking around a quilt frame. My cousin, Kenny, was getting married and she was quilting a wedding ring quilt for him and his new bride. I was down visiting my friend Sarah and we walked over to Grandma's to check in on her and see how the quilt was coming. She was sitting on the far side of her living room with the cable on tuned to AMC. She heard us at the door and was crawling out from under the quilt when we walked in. We had a quick conversation, a hug and a kiss, and we parted ways. The next day, a Sunday, while at my ward building for a practice of a choral number I found out that my Grandma had had a stroke. She was now in the hospital and they were trying to discover the level of her...change, damage...From that day forward she was changed--the same--but changed.

To be continued....I still need to cover music, food preservation, acting...there is SOOOOO much more!

1 comment:

Mom said...

I love it Jen. Good job. I love your stories. My goal next year is to write what I remember. I got to finish Christmas presents before this year is out. FYI: I have the Crochet Last Supper of my moms so I have a finished pattern to look at while I am making one. My mom was 21 years old when she made it. So she made it right after she got married.