Grandma Hazel and I. I was about 21 or 22 here.
The memories are not organized, they just come, here and there, moments in time remembering being with her or just how she made me feel. A montage of how she looks, her eyes always seemed wide with wonder as she paid attention to exactly what you were saying, doing, needing. Her smile was so constant, she found happiness in so many moments, I don't know how she ever handled my angst ridden youth filled with depression - sitting on her couch, bummed at the world, she would just smile and listen. I never felt judged, because Grandma did not judge. She just loved.
Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Bob Ross - whom cheated at painting, according to Grandma. I would take the crayons, spread out on the carpet in front of the TV and follow Bob's instructions. Grandma was a painter, and even though Bob was a cheater, she wasn't going to deter a budding artist on her living room floor. She did however tell me, "real painting is not that easy."
I remember all the other kids could sleep a lot longer and a lot more soundly than I could. Which meant nap time was extra time were it was just me and Grandma. I'd be quiet and watch whatever was on PBS while Grandma would sit in her recliner, quietly observing, while working on crosswords or chatting on the phone with friends.Grandma and all her Girls!
Grandma's house always felt like a sanctuary; like a safe haven where you could shed all the cares and worries of the world at the door, come right in and just be yourself. I remember the green davenport, loving to sit and rock in it, "not so fast, not so hard." Her bathroom was so giant! I loved standing in front of the mirror, putting on fancy things, and pretending to be a movie star.
Grandma would never fill the tub full with water, "you are just in here to get clean hunny, you don't need so much water to get clean." The first memory I have of Grandma bathing me, a wash cloth in hand, scrubbing my arms, back, legs - it was heavenly, safe, and relaxing. Even in just a few small inches of water. I wonder if Grandma thought I was strange for always wanting her to give me a bath when I visited?
I am sure it wasn't such a strange thing though. I mean, she did help raise me and she understood me better than I think my own parents may have. Being born as sick as I was, the doctors prescribed a liquid medicine I had to take every day. The disgusting taste it came with is indescribably horrid, so much so that just my memory of it makes my taste buds cringe and my brain begin to prepare my body for the coming onslaught. My Father use to hold me down, while I screamed and struggled, as my mother tried to put a spoonful of medicine in my mouth.
"It was so horrendous to watch," Grandma said, "I always felt so sorry for you."
Then one day my parents went out on a date and Grandma had to give me the medicine. She knew she couldn't hold me down and force it into me. She also knew I had to have it or I would get sick again. So Grandma did, what every good grandmother of an overly analytic child does, she put me on the kitchen counter and reasoned with me.
Now that we were eye to eye, equal, Grandma began, "now Tigress, you have to take your medicine and I can't force you to ..." and by the time she was finished, I was ready. I took my medicine, made the most horrible face, and Grandma never had to struggle with me. Grandma knew exactly how to handle me, when so many others could never seem to get it.
She held a buttercup under my chin one day, in her backyard, and then told me, "you love butter!"
"Yep, see," she held the buttercup under Trisha's chin and the yellow glowed off of her skin. "A buttercup knows when someone loves butter. If you love butter your skin will glow yellow."
I proceeded to run inside, open the yellow margarine tub, and eat some directly from it with a spoon. I had to know if I really loved butter or not. I had to know if Grandma's buttercup science was correct. It was, I did love eating that butter!
"What are you doing!" Grandma laughed with a loud voice as she took the butter from me.
"You are right Grandma, I do love butter!"
She just laughed, I don't think I remember Grandma ever being mad at me. Just smiling and reasoning with me.Grandma (far right) with Grandpa and friends at Portland's Rose Room - 1943ish.
Grandma loved bowling so much! Every time we went to her house I was always hopeful we would get to go bowling. I sucked at it, I still do. Yet Grandma was a bowling magician! She could get a strike almost every time. She knew how to bowl and she always tried to teach us the moves. Sometimes I would get it right, most of the time I just spent laughing with my sisters, my cousins, my Grandma.
If I didn't have my Grandma in my life, I don't think I would really understand the meaning of unconditional love. After college, when I moved back to Oregon, I spent a lot of time at Grandma's house. She was therapy to me. She was a place of happiness. I needed her love so much.
I told her about my life, things I don't like to talk about, and for the first time, this woman who just never showed any unhappiness, told me about hers. Just the bits that she could share to let me know she understood. It made me realize that in life, you can choose to be bitter over what harshness you are handed -or- you can choose to just love being alive! That is the greatest lesson Grandma taught me - to just love everything and everyone that comes in and out of your life. Regardless of what hardship our happiness it brings.
I can only hope to live in honor of my Grandma's legacy by bringing and being this kind of love in the world, in the life I have been given. If we are reincarnations, we are simply reincarnations of those we came from. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have come from Hazel, my Grandma, who is the one female in my life who showed me exactly what it means to love unconditionally and to love everyone; regardless.
~Tigress Grandma and her little sister Leola.