Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grandma (Mom Bowen) by Carla Elliott Storer

Monday was Grandma's birthday. It's been time for awhile now for me to set down and write about my dear grandma. I just have been putting it off.

My very earliest memories of my grandma are of her smile. Always, always grandma had a smile. Laughter, clapping hands, singing, those are my baby memories. Grandma never seemed to have a bad day. In fact, I remember when I was almost a teenager the first time I remember Grandma being just the slightest bit grouchy and I realized she was tired, and human. What a shock. Grandma always knew how to make us happy.

With daddy being a pastor and grandpa being a pastor too, we always lived far away from each other. Every so often a lil maroon car would pull into our driveway in Lancaster, Ohio and out would jump my grandma. Oh what joy would fill our hearts. Grandma's squeals of delight were just as loud as our squeals at seeing her. She ALWAYS had frozen grapes that her and grandpa packed for their trip. Somehow there were always enough left over for them to share with us. Grandma always brought us stuff. I didn't know she was poor. I didn't know we were poor. With all the delightful things grandma brought us we thought she was so rich. Clothes, toys, games, food, her green german chocolate cake (she had mistaken the green food coloring for vanilla!!) always frozen vege soup, or lasagna, peaches to can, or yummy cookies, Grandma never came empty handed. Somehow, those trips always stuck in my mind.

The night before Grandma had to go home instead of it being sad, she would throw a party. She always called it the "Grand Finale". Sometimes it was a water balloon fight, sometimes it was food, like a mystery food party. It was just whatever she came up with and we couldn't be sad. She gave us too many fun things to think about. '

Her living far away didn't seem so bad because she sent us boxes. "Sunshine boxes" if we were sick, Valentine Boxes with the best sweetheart sugar cookies with almond flavor icing. The icing was white, the writing was always pink and they said things like "xoxo", I love you, Be mine. I can remember getting that box every year, and we knew what was in there, but the excitement was always the same.

Grandma sent us cards, every birthday, every special event in our lives. She always made us feel like we were the only grandchild. She always stuck a few dollars in those cards, might as well been a thousand dollars, that's what it felt like.

I remember going to grandma's every summer and going to the beach with her. I remember going at Christmas and her bringing out stacks of Christmas baked goods. Hers were always the tastiest, she even sold them sometimes. I remember her climbing her stairs over and over with stacks of family laundry, always with a smile, a joke or a laugh. I remember when everyone else sat down to eat, she never sat, she always served, always seeing what she could get the next person. When everyone else was done and gone, we would catch her sitting down to finally feed herself. I don't remember many gifts grandma gave me at Christmas, some books, I mostly remember the time we spent together.

I remember her teaching me to "cook"!!! I think it was rolls or biscuits. We mixed, we rolled, we put them in the oven. Company came, we talked and laughed, grandma remember the food, grandma proudly remarked that I was baking and sent me to check on the food. It wasn't done......awhile later she sent me to check it still wasn't done. Awhile later, it still not being done, grandma got up herself, not believing that the food couldn't be done yet, she had forgotten to have me turn the oven on!!!! Oh did she laugh. At herself and me and the whole situation. She could always laugh at herself.

I remember sleeping on her screened in porch in the summer, hearing the train go by, hearing her scurrying around in the kitchen. She would come out and take us up to the barn with her to gather eggs, feed the goats and pigs. She would point out things growing or tell us stories. I remember her going to the shed and praying. I remember walking in there and looking at her lil prayers spot and admiring her relationship with God. It was so simple and yet so profound.There was simply no place on earth like Grandma's house, or any person on earth like Grandma. There is never any point in my life that I remember her judging me, or being afraid I was gonna make wrong choices. She always prayed for me, she always believed in me and she always encouraged me.She was never unkind. She was never harsh. Even in the presence of people who had mistreated her or been unkind, she was kind. She would say, "we need to pray for them".

She gave away EVERYTHING. She often would say as we left, "if there's anything you need or want, take it." I never, EVER left her house without something. She loved yard sales and sent us away with much more than we arrived with. She truly loved to give. She was always handing out money. I remember the family joke that Grandpa was bringing money in the front door as Grandma was handing it out the back door. She gave away everything..........even at her funeral her children were giving away these lil goodie bags that she had made up to set by her chair so she could give them to visitors. It was simple, just a sandwich bag with a bottle of soap a notebook and a pen, and a note that said it was from her. That was just the way she was, it didn't matter what she gave you, it was just that she wanted you to know she cared about you. And you definitely knew that. You always knew that.

You might think grandma had an easy life, or just a positive attitude, or was just one of those people who things always worked out for, but that's far from true. Grandma was born out of wedlock, never knew her father, or even who her father was. Her mother was not able to raise her due to physical and emotional issues. Therefore, Grandma went into a sort of foster care. There was a family member who wanted to adopt her, but the spouse did not. They took my dear grandma on at about two years of age. By the time other family members realized what was going on Grandma was a lil older but had been the object of much physical abuse. Having her been knocked down the steps, having all of her teeth knocked out grandma had false teeth by the age of 16. Other people came along and "adopted" grandma, but primarily for the reason of her service. Making her drop out of school to work, she took on a job at a bakery where she learned to become such a wonderful baker. When she returned home and turned over her earnings, she then would take care of her adopted parents and grandparent. Somewhere along the line Grandma heard about Jesus and how much He loved her. She gave her heart to Him. It was probably the first time she knew of love, of any kind. She would always say that Jesus loved lil ole, ugly, simple her. If she only knew how beautiful she truly was. Anyway, she longed to go to college, but was told no college would ever accept her because she had never even graduated from high school. She perservered, she never was one to give up easy. and upon hearing of a Christian Worker's College that would accept work students, she applied and was accepted! It was there she met my grandpa, married and they began pastoring. I could tell you tale upon tale of their pastoring days, some good, some really bad.......but Grandma never talked of that. She always talked of the dear people they knew and prayed for each one.

She birthed 7 beautiful children. I don't know how she did it, but she made each of them feel so special and loved, and she made all us grandchildren feel that way too.You see, grandma always saw herself as the least of God's children, as one of the simplest. If she could see herself as the rest of us saw her. So beautiful, gorgeous skin, almond eyes that always sparkled, an ornery spirit and a love for life.

I feel as though I could write and write and yet you could never ever know what a special person she was, how unique she was. Grandma didn't have alot of material things, in fact very few. But she viewed herself as the richest woman alive, she didn't allow her circumstances to determine her mood or her spirit, she saw beyond that. She didn't see people as people, she saw them as opportunities to spread God's love and goodness. She was always positive, always grateful, always lively.

The last time I was privileged to be with her, she was in the hospital. My sisters and I went to be with her, we didn't know how long she was gonna be on earth. When we got there at nearly midnight, she didn't know we were around. She was in a deep, deep sleep and we expected Heaven to call her at any moment.

The next morning my aunt called saying Grandma was awake and we should come see her. We went, not sure what to expect. I had never seen her look so beautiful, laying there in her robe, the crisp hospital sheets around her. Her dark head laying amidst the pillows, her skin so creamy, those dark eyes just jumping with life. I walked in and she said, "well look who it is". For the next couple hours she made us laugh and cry. Her voice so raspy and weak, yet she told us poems and sang us songs, and told us stories. It was one of the most precious times ever. We had to leave and I will never forget the feel of her soft cheek as I kissed her.

Heaven is real and I can't wait to see you again Grandma. But for now, I wish I knew how to thank you for showing me that God is real. For giving me an example of who and what a Godly woman is. You would've never listened if I'd try to thank you when you were here, always pointing out your faults. But, you are my hero.

When I grow up, I wanna be like you. You taught me that my walk with God was just that, a walk, every day. You taught me that the greatest among them was a servant, you taught me that caring was more important than anything else. You taught me that my hands are God's hands when I give them to Him and use them for others. You taught me that my relationship with God was practical and useful. You taught me that riches don't come in in dollars, or bank accounts, or property, but in perspective, in attitude and in many lil unseen blessings. You taught me that it is MUCH better to give than to receive.

Thank you for all the prayers you prayed for me, thank you for all your smiles and for the special lil things I have around my house that came from you. Thank you for your love, thank you for teaching me to bake :). Thank you for being you and for living life so honest. Thank you for the heritage you have given me. Thank you for giving me a role model, thank you for teaching me joy can be found anywhere. Thank you for being "simple". Thank you for living a life so that I know I will see you again someday.

I am rich for having you in my life. I love you much. And I miss you much much more than I could've ever imagined. I hope you had the best birthday party ever.
Love you, ~Carla~