Monday, June 24, 2013

We'll Miss You, Grandma!

Norma Alteneder ~ February 29, 1932 - June 24, 2013

An extraordinary woman born on an extraordinary day, Grandma and Grandpa always disagreed on whether her birthday should be celebrated the 28th of February or the 1st of March.  I still remember when I surpassed her in age.  It was such fun boasting to my friends that I was older than my own grandmother!  And yet it was fitting for this youthful woman, who was ever young at heart.  She made us laugh right up to the last day she talked, surprising us with her blunt but humorous quips.

If I could choose one word to describe Grandma, it would be selfless.  She married young, bore five children, and spent her entire life serving others.  When her children were raised, her focus shifted to her grandchildren, and later, her great-grandchildren.  Visiting her house was one of our greatest joys.  Inside were two stories full of love and memories.  Upstairs was Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom where I used to sit and watch her fix her hair.  Across the hall was the "TV room" where we children passed many happy hours watching cartoons.  There was a spare bedroom for dropping off our belongings and a bathroom with a laundry chute.  The living room had a sofa, recliners next to the fireplace, National Geographics, and piles of books.  Best of all was the dining area, the central hub of activity.  It was connected to the kitchen, and consequently, to Grandma.   We shared countless meals over the table while laughing at Grandpa's famous stories, playing games, or putting puzzles together.  Grandma's favorite game was Chinese Checkers, which she was brilliant at.  I remember Authors, Crazy 8's, Old Maid, and lots of Parcheesi, which was Grandpa's favorite.  The adults frequently played Rook while the kids found plenty of diversion inside and out.

Downstairs was the mysterious, unfinished basement with its curious smells and exposed pipes.  It was furnished with a washer, dryer, freezers, enough coats to outfit an army, and a big wash sink with a paper cup dispenser.  I don't know how many times I entered through the garage and stopped at that sink to quench my thirst with 14 tiny cupfulls of water.  And there was the play room with its old toys, books, an exercise ramp we ran up and down, and balls we kicked around.  There were yellowed clippings from old funnies taped to a file cabinet and an ancient metal desk with all sorts of odds and ends.  My Uncle Aaron used to hide down there in the dark and scare us to death, making strange noises and throwing stuff up at us.  The play room had a door leading into a storage room, which we called "the junk room."  Running up and down those stairs all the time probably helped Grandma stay fit!

The house was situated near the bottom of a forested hill on a nice little piece of land, surrounded by a lawn, shrubs, trees, and flowers.  We explored the hill in summer, sometimes venturing all the way to the top, accompanied by Grandma and a picnic lunch.  In the winter, we sledded and tubed down it.  After wearing ourselves out, we were met with hot chocolate and a few rounds from the cookie jar, which was always well stocked.  I learned to ride a bike next to their garage and developed a passion for ice hockey on the cement slab down by the blue shed.  They had a long, dirt driveway that led to their mailbox, and it went right past Grandpa's huge garden where he taught me about potato bugs.

After more than 50 years of marriage, Grandpa passed away, and Grandma had to learn to be independent.  We would occasionally tease her about whether she'd found a man to marry, but she always firmly replied that she would never marry again.  She enjoyed 10 fabulous years of good health, collecting cats along the way (Grandpa had always kept cat-collecting in check), traveling around to visit her children, and keeping up both her house (for company) and a small apartment (for the rest of the time).

I learned many lessons from Grandma.  I learned that holidays and birthdays are special, stickers make great embellishments, and one can never overdose on chocolate.  I learned not to eat a handful of Flintstone vitamins all at once (the only spanking I ever got from her), and I learned how sweet a package can be.  We lived several states away until I was 6, and the boxes from her were the best!  The only stuffed animal I was ever attached to came from Grandma: a pink cat that I slept with and took everywhere until it nearly fell apart.

Grandma was a gracious hostess, always putting the needs of her guests before her own.  She was one of the last to bed, the first to rise, and I guess she didn't get much sleep in between for worrying about all she needed to do the next day.  She was modest and kind, gentle and patient.  She could get along with just about anyone and provided a sympathetic ear whenever needed.  She was an incredible role model of what it means to be a wife, mother, and grandmother. 

This beautiful soul peacefully went to be with Jesus at 9:25 this morning, surrounded by her son, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter, and the prayers of those who loved her dearly.  We'll probably never fully comprehend or appreciate just how blessed we were to have her in our lives, but we will miss her terribly.  I am so thankful for all the wonderful memories we have to cherish.

Goodbye, Grandma!  I can't wait to see you again!

Farrah, your "first grandchild"


Karla Cook @ Roads to Everywhere said...

I'm sorry for your loss... but rejoicing in the hope of Heaven with you! Thanks for sharing your memories. She sounds like a very special lady.

katrina said...

What a beautiful tribute post. Your relationship with her sounds wonderful, leaving you with so many lovely memories. Thank you for sharing some here.