Friday, September 22, 2006

Helen Culver Cramer

Grandma, when I called you I was already crying, could you tell? I have been thinking of you every day. I miss seeing you and I wish I could just drive over and see you. I could hardly speak when I heard your voice... you sounded 30 years younger, like a girl and I wanted to hug you and cry and hold you.

I could see you there squinting your eyes trying to hear me, tipping your head and listening intently. Your soft, incredibly white hair is still curled from your biweekly appointment... a luxury you allow yourself even though it is almost not worth the effort of getting out of the house anymore. At 94 you are astounded yourself at the fact that you are still here and accomplishing as much as you are.

When I visited you last you said you didn't know why you were still here but there must be a reason and you would take each day as it came. Tonight you told me that you make a goal and try to accomplish at least one task each day. I told you I was making up for it with the work I do; you laughed that bright laugh.

I transport myself to your kitchen table. You sit at the head of the table, where Grampa used to sit. Your half cup of coffee is cold and the mint dish is full. The mail is stacked on the side, a pencil and a pen and a little tablet, too. The brass calendar that was Aunt Edith's is there, too... a day or two off. "She always had it at the right date. She was like that, every thing was..." and you motion with your hands 'neat, meticulous, everything just right'. You kept a clean house (it wasn't long ago we caught you on the bathroom countertop washing the ceiling) but it was lived in (I almost wrote 'loved in'- more accurate).

I was looking at pictures of you a little while ago. There are pictures of you as a timeless young girl, a young woman just married in front of your honeymoon cottage (a trip to PA to take Great Aunt Betty to Bible College). I have a picture of you holding a shotgun, drinking sap dripping from a spile, holding each of your grandchildren, sitting next to me. In my mind, there are other pictures. Pictures never snapped but seared on my mind.

Vivid and frequent views over your shoulder in a long hug. Thanking you at your 50th anniversary for the priviledge of sharing my friends and my children with you. Hiking in the woods with you, berry buckets in hand, long sleeves over and jeans under your housedress. Stirring Speghettios for Steve and me when we came to visit... to eat with Hawaiian Punch- the only time we ever had it. Working in the kitchen before sunrise on Thanksgiving morning... what am I doing up that early, you ask, but I am an early riser like you, Grandma.

I like to think I am a lot like you, Grandma. Am I really? I want to have your strength. I know you have been through a long list of difficult situations and successfully come through them. I want to have your love. You never neglected to meet us at the door with great enthusiasm and exclaimations of "Heddo!" and smiles, hugs and piles of cookies in the background. Were you sorry you had just pulled them out of the oven? Don't be, I loved seeing hot cookies on the countertop, on those little wire cooling racks... I have some and I always think of you when I use them. I love to be outside, to hang my laundry outside, to putz around in my garden, to hike in the woods looking for berries. I love the reflection in the pond, the birds on the feeder, the nice napkins for dinner and posies on the table. You have always had animals around, but not now... it is too much. I love animals... they comfort me and make me laugh. Remember when you put wax paper on your cat's feet with rubber bands and slid her onto the newly waxed floor? You hooted with laughter telling about it. Didn't you tie a feedbag on a calf's tail to see it run away with fright?

Grandma, I have 47 years (47) of the most incredible memories with you. You may be a simple woman in a little town in an uncommon location. But you have made an indelible, uncomparable, unbelievable impression on me. And I can sum it up in one word. I can. It is easy.

LOVE. You have loved me since before you even knew me. You have shown your love to me in tender, plain, consistant ways. Always. Really. Real-ly. Deeply.

I want to love like you do. Love my children always... no matter where they are, what they are doing, how they are. I hope that I let them know that I love them ferociously, always... unconditionally and throughly... actively and forever. Like you love me.

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