I saw that with my grandma on her last night……


I saw that with my grandma on her last night……

I rolled in there and saw her hanging on and fighting for each breath. Unconscious. I knew it wouldn’t be long. I wondered if I had said everything I wanted to say. I wondered if I told her just the right things before she was off this earth. Did I make enough time to spend with someone I loved so much?

All my memories are fond memories of my grandma. She was next to my mom to me. My truest deepest inspiration.

Grandma never gave up on me and always believed in me. Throughout the years she was there even if it was just a phone call away and boy did she love getting phone calls from me! We would talk for a long time about anything and everything. She would send letters to me and encourage me.

My earliest memories of my grandma were always of her smile and she had that smile even when she was sad. As a 5-year-old my mom would bring me over to my grandma to stay a night or two. I remember always looking forward to that time. I was her first-born grandchild. I can remember a little brown paper bag holding all my clothes inside. Grandma Ruth would write my name with a little smiley face under it. I loved to see my name written on that brown paper bag.

My grandma and grandpa made my time with them very pleasant. We played games like Yahtzee and Old Maid. We laughed a lot. She would let me go up and down the stairs. You know how kids love stairs! I got to slide down them on my bottom one step at a time. Grandma even gave me my own special place to sleep in their home.

Grandma Ruth was a great cook and always made fantastic meals! She used those skills to be a lunch lady at the local school. She would cook amazing pies for the family.

I spent the first few years of my life in Ashland Wisconsin. I remember going to church and traveling around the town of Ashland with grandma Ruth. Everyone knew her and I don’t think I ever heard her say one negative thing about anyone.

I love that little Methodist Church in Ashland. It had those big long wooden pews. She would help me follow along the hymnals. I’m not sure I was much of a singer. In fact, I’m still not, but it was wonderful to listen to Grandma’s singing voice.

I remember one time that I stayed with them I zipped my pants up after going to the bathroom only to catch the tip of my private in the zipper. It got pinched and stuck in the metal clasp! I screamed. I was paralyzed in fear not to move the zipper. Not to move anything. My grandma came running in and I was too embarrassed to tell her what was wrong, so I screamed to get Grandpa. Grandpa hurried in and on the count of three with my screaming tears he unzipped quickly and release the pain. My grandma asked me to come sit by her on the old green couch they had. She put my head in her lap, hugged and consoled me. After my tears dried, I asked her to never tell anybody what happened. She promised she wouldn’t say a word and to this day I don’t think she ever shared that story with anyone.

When I was six, I overheard my parents talking about moving to the other side of the United States. They were talking about a state called Oregon. I wasn’t sure how far away Oregon was from Wisconsin. The only concern I had was that I wanted to be able to still see my grandma.

My mother said, “Honey, you won’t be able to see your grandma for quite some time, but she’ll come visit and maybe we can come back.” I looked my mom straight in the eyes and told her that just wasn’t going to work for me.

I was sad that next day when I went to school. It was one of those types of days where there were no words anyone could say to put a smile on my face. We got to paint an art project on butcher paper which made me feel a little bit better. I carefully rolled it up and tied it with a string.

That night I got to see my grandma. I was super excited but equally sad to give her my work of art. As she unrolled it her face lit up which made me happy for the first time that day.

Grandma Ruth said, “It’s wonderful. How beautiful and so colorful, Ronnie. I will cherish this forever. But, why is the colorful clown crying?”

I answered, “Well, he’s sad because he must move away and not see his Grandma anymore. He won’t get to feel his Grandma’s hugs.”

Grandma Ruth told me that it’s not true and that we would see each other again and gave me a big hug. She told me that my dad earned a good job and she assured me that I would love the beautiful state of Oregon. I assured her that it wouldn’t be beautiful if I didn’t get to see her.

“I’ll tell you what, Ronnie,” grandma said. “I’ll hang this clown on the wall and every time I think of you I’ll say a little prayer that you’ll know I’m thinking of you. Know that I’ll be saying a lot of prayers because I’ll be thinking of you a lot!”

50 years later my grandma brought that painting to Oregon. What a wonderful surprise it was when gifted that picture back to me. It’s my most valued painting and by giving it back to me all those years later it inspired me to paint more than ever. I am now painting for the Mouth and Foot Painters Association where my art is used to produce greeting cards and other products all thanks to Grandma. That colorful crying clown is hanging right here next to my desk looking at me while I write these words. Thank you, Grandma, you kept your word. Just like always.

It was hard moving so far away. We did get to take family trips back to visit Wisconsin a few times. There are so many fond family memories I have from those road trips.  But then when I was around 13 we got the call that Grandpa had cancer. The outlook wasn’t good.

Those were difficult times, but there was beauty to be found. Beauty in the way a loving woman cared not only for my Grandpa during his pancreatic cancer, but also the way she took care of the rest of us.

My grandpa was fading away. He was very skinny and frail. When he saw his kids and grandkids there you could see a sense of ease. On those final days he had the same look my grandma had just a few days ago when I told her I loved her. We gave each other a great big loving smile that shared the knowledge that the time was close.

Being the oldest grandchild, I was kind of the leader during that time. I felt confused about my grandpa dying. What kid truly understands death? But I did understand that laughter would help the younger ones. I did fun things with them like going sledding. I remember doing stupid things too. Like making my brother lick the frozen sign pole. Then I had a plan to build a snow cave. I had my brother go inside and I covered up the opening. The plan was that I would go get the cousins and when we got close he would bust through like a snow monster.

The problem with this plan was my cousins took forever to get outside! When I finally got them all out I saw his hands slashing back and forth. I thought he had blown the surprise, but the real problem was the snow cave collapsed and my brother was running out of air. I dug down just in time to grab an ice cube out of his mouth and throat. As soon as he was breathing, he started to scream. My mom, dad and grandma came running out and my brother told them I had tried to kill him, which wasn’t entirely true. I instantly knew I was in trouble when they took me down to the basement. My grandma shook me with all her might. It startled me because this was the first time my grandma had been ever angry with me. She yelled, “Your grandfather is dying and you’re trying to kill your brother. What is wrong with you?!” I said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I guess I’m just bad!” Grandma just hugged me tight once again instilling with her actions that love never ends

Years later that same brother pulled me out of the ocean with the same frantic breath of air that gives you life. Even though I buried him, on accident, I did save him. Then he saved me all those years later.

That day in the snow was my worst grandma experience, but my funniest memory was when she thought she could help lift me up with my mom. The idea was to transfer me from my chair to my bed. Sounds simple. So on the count of three my mom got under my armpits and grabbed my wrist and my grandma‘s job was to simply lift under my knees.  While moving me to the bed grandma started to fart and farted literally all the way to the bed! The only thing she could say was “oh my, oh my….”. Mom started to laugh and we all lost balance. The three of us crashed together onto the bed laughing. I’m loving reliving that memory right now of my grandma and her little toot toot toot to the bed.

My grandma lived alone in her big house for many years. She never remarried. She took care of those in our community and then that call came that my aunt Barbie, her youngest daughter, had cancer. Another trip was made. I remember my aunt Barbie after she had half her tongue cut out. Thanks to grandma being there she recovered. The power of grandmas love and support once again.

My aunt Barbie wasn’t supposed to ever talk again. She ended up giving speeches to women and making a difference in so many lives. But the cancer came back. I again made a trip there. I couldn’t see my Aunt Barbie because where she was wasn’t in a place accessible with my wheelchair. Although she did tell me I was one of her greatest inspiration‘s. Her mother, my grandma, sat by her side as she slowly passed away. I remember thinking what an awful thing to deal with. The painful death grandma watched as her daughter passed slowly was eased as she was softly and lovingly cared for her.

When I broke my neck I didn’t know how my grandma would take the news. She wanted to come and see me but my parents encouraged her to wait until I got home. After we settled into our log cabin in Brownsville my grandma came for a visit. She looked so nervous not knowing what to say. Almost a ghostly white.

I said, “Well what are you waiting for come over here and give me a big hug! You’re my perfect height now at 4ft 11”! Now I don’t have to bend down to hug you and you don’t have to stand on your tippy toes to hug me! I’m still Ronnie don’t you forget it!”. She then broke into laughter.

She said, “I was so afraid that you’d be different, but I see you’re still as ornery as ever!”. I told her, “I have stayed that way thanks to you grandma.”

My grandma was my biggest inspiration. She used to tell me over and over for years, “you need to paint and give those speeches.” She was right and that’s what I’ve done now for years. And all those years she’s been right there with me.

Then in grandma’s 80s she had a fall. My uncles and dad went to move her out of that old three-story house. They brought her to Bend Oregon where she found a wonderful place called the Whispering Winds. She loved that little one bedroom apartment and so did we.   At least three times a year we would travel down to see her.

On one trip I told her I was going to a desert not too far from her to race a car with the use of my teeth. I told her I was going to go 100 miles an hour! She laughed and without missing a beat said, “what if you crash and break your neck?”. I told her, “well then maybe I’ll walk again!”, I replied.

Although she was skeptical, she knew how rambunctious and determined I was. No one could stop me if I put my mind to something. With grandma’s never-wavering support she told me to go for it and to make sure I got good coverage so she could see it to believe it. Sure enough I did just that. As she watched her grandson drive a 68 Firebird 100 Miles an hour with his teeth all she could say was, “Oh my, oh my, oh my!”. Then she asked, “Roni, do me a favor and don’t ever do that again.”

Then that call came again. My uncle got cancer. What my grandma must have been feeling. Losing a husband, a daughter and then to have cancer back in her son. Grandma supported him and he supported her. When the time came that my uncle couldn’t care for her any longer due to the extent of his cancer and a small stroke that grandma had my Dad packed grandma up and moved her to his home. God bless Aunt Barb and Uncle Dave for taking such loving care of grandma all those years in Bend.

Up until a few nights ago that is where my grandma stayed. Lovingly being taken care of by my dad and Betty, my stepmom. It’s been so nice to have her near us. It gave us all a lot of precious time to build more memories together. For my daughters to be able to build even a strong bond with her.

Grandparents are amazing and I’m so grateful to have had mine. I’m even more grateful that my Grandma was able to be in my daughter’s lives. Grandma Ruth was a blessing to my girls, Roni and Gracie. Those three girls shared so much love.

As a woman that never wanted to be taken care of grandma would struggle at times. She tried to make her amazing pies and to do other things to help out and feel needed. I had asked my dad how he was feeling as he would take care of her. He was doing the full spectrum of caregiving. From helping her to the bathroom, to bed, to keeping her occupied and making sure her spirits were up. I joked with my grandma that she should be grateful for me because I taught dad everything he knows about being a good caregiver and now he’s taking care of her.

Three of my caregivers through the years have also helped with grandma. It was my part of giving back to my dad and grandma. Thank you caregivers who helped in those cherished ways.

My dad, my uncle, my aunt and Betty where there to assist in the process of grandma Ruth leaving. Our parents and family greet us as we come into this world, we should be there during the days that they are leaving it.

My grandma loves Jesus. She was a faithful friend of God. She enjoyed flowers, leaves, trees, birds and hummingbirds. She enjoyed God’s nature right up to the end. She had other people pick up leaves and things to bring to the house. I think I started that. My dad finally told me, “grandma doesn’t need any more leaves brought into this house,” but of course I brought one more. It was a little dry around the edges by that time, but still very colorful. I said, “even those little rough around the edges leaves are still beautiful. We’re all a little rougher on the edges.”

I would not be the same without her love for Him. To strive forward and live as she had lived full of faith, extreme love and compassion for her family. Grandma had no enemies. Everyone who knew my grandma became her friend. She lived well and finished strong. She completed her race. May we all be inspired by such a great woman. Let us let her beauty show today. Let’s make good memories with our family and friends.

Grandma loved the little duck in the daffodils that I painted. She was quite fond of my artwork and yes it made me feel good to hear her say it. Many times, she would come to my gallery and she would look around and even though she had seen all my paintings many times before she would say, “oh I like this one. This is beautiful! Oh, I don’t think I’ve seen that one, it’s gorgeous.”

In the end my heart goes on with the memory of my grandma. With that she will live forever. Her beauty. Her radiant smile and caring spirit. That stern attitude braced with unconditional love has made me a better person.

One of my last adventures with grandma was at a tulip farm. My grandma and I sat in the front of a mighty tulips as far as you could see. They were everywhere with beautiful vibrant colors shining in the sun. She said, “look at all them beautiful people.” I think she meant tulips but that made me think, yes look at all the many beautiful people in this world! May we look to the bright side as grandma always did. She and I have a shared love of flowers and we sat there side by side in our wheelchairs for the longest time smiling at the beauty that surrounded us.


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