True love. That is what my grandma has taught me. Not romantic love, but true godly love. When I think of my grandma my heart is full. There is no empty space, no regrets, not even sadness. The memories I have of her are plentiful and go on and on. I believe that we truly made the best of our time we had together, which is hard to believe it was only 31 years, but feels like an entire life time.
The Bible's definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the perfect definition of my grandma. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
So many adjectives describe the way I see my grandma: kind, gentle, warm, happy, humble, calm, hard working, relaxed, and content. I truly cannot think of one negative word connected to her. When I think of her, I just think of pure beauty. I know plenty of celebrities that are beautiful, but none compare to how I saw my grandma. To me she was the most gorgeous woman. Even in her last days, I still just saw pure beauty lying in bed. I remember her last birthday party at the nursing home in November. She started crying because she wasn't sure if she looked nice enough and it just broke my heart because I saw her as the most amazing woman in the room. She could have no make up on, her pajamas on, and her hair not fixed and still glow. And that's what true love is. True love is being able to look at someone and not notice the imperfections. To me she was perfect.
The last few nights have been hard for me to sleep. Not because I've been crying, but because my mind has just been racing with every memory I have of my grandma. I'm deeply afraid of losing these memories, so I decided to get out of bed and just start typing as many memories as I can recall.
When I think of my childhood, I think of my grandma's house. When we were still living in Houston, when I was a toddler, I knew exactly where we were when we turned onto the street that went to grandma's house. Weekends were spent at grandma's house or on hayrides out in Shelby.
When I was 6 we moved to Brenham to be closer to family. At first we lived with my Aunt Barbara. Then we moved out to "our house" which was the house my mom grew up in. It's strange to think that my mom raised me in the same house that her mom raised her in. I don't think I ever thought about it as a kid, but now I'm wondering...if those walls could talk what would they say?
Everyday after school was spent at my grandma's house. Either she would pick me up from school in her long beige car, or I would ride the bus, or walk "home" to grandma's house. As soon as we arrived "home" we would always have a snack. I would raid the fridge for pickles or raid the freezer for ice cream. I know one day after school I ate 8 ice cream sandwiches, but made sure not to tell her. Every now and then I would do my homework right away, but most often I would immediately switch the tv to Nickelodeon. Full House and Hey Dude were my favorite shows that came on right after school. I loved Stephanie Tanner so much that I remember finding some paper, sitting on grandma's bed, watching grandpa's tv, and writing down every thing that Stephanie wore on the show so I would know how to dress the next day for school. As junior high and high school came around, I was so glad grandma had cable so I could watch CMT or MTV just to catch a glimpse of Hanson. On the days that I did do my homework, I would sit at grandma's dining room table or on the floor by the glass sliding door.
Sometimes after school grandma would have to take me to dance class. I remember one day when she took me to class, she turned that long beige car onto a one way street and we were going the wrong way. We just so happen to pass a police car before she had a chance to turn onto another street. We ended up behind HEB, which is now Auto Zone and she decided to try to hide from the police. She took the back entrance, if you remember it was a steep slope of a driveway on left side of the building, and she drove through the parking lot trying to find a space to hide. Well we parked and hid, only to find the police car rolling up behind us. I'm just giggling sitting here thinking about it. Silly ole' grandma. I think she was so embarrassed.
When I was in college, grandma and I would go on little road trips to Bellville to eat lunch with Bailee at school. We had gone often enough that we knew exactly where to go and where to wait for Bailee. Good memories.
Summertime was also spent at grandma's house. Not just like a week of visiting grandma, but every single day of summer. I can remember when she still worked at Blue Bell and at 1:00 she would walk through the garage door in her navy Blue Bell uniform with her checkered cap on. I loved the days she came home with a brown paper bag in her hand because that meant that she brought home some ice cream from work. She always had a stock of homemade vanilla, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches. After she had retired, I can remember going on a few Blue Bell tours with her and I knew she was loved at work because the people from production would look up through the windows at her and wave and she would wave back to them. Even when I started working at Blue Bell in high school and had a blue checkered cap of my own, the people in production, especially in the ice cream sandwich hole, would still ask me how my grandma was doing.
But back to summer time at grandma's house. She took us to the movies, to the city pool, and to the skating ring every week it seemed like. And it's crazy to think that she would just drop us off and pick us up a few hours later. Now as a parent I see exactly why an adult would want to drop kids off somewhere for a few hours of sanity, but as a kid I never sensed that from my grandma. She took us because we asked her too, that's all. LyNae and I spent hours playing beauty shop in grandma's bathroom. We knew just where to find her curling irons, brushes, and make-up. Grandma even joined in the fun and would let us curl her hair and put her make up on. Sometimes all we needed for entertainment were the blankets from the hallway closet. Grandma would let us rearrange her furniture in the living room and put blankets up to make forts. We would block every walk way possible but she would just let us play.
Another thing my grandma and I loved was the JCPenney catalog. I could spend hours just flipping through her giant catalog. Both of us looked forward to receiving the coupon in the mail to pick up the newest issue. Then after picking it up from the store, I remember asking her if I could look at it first and she always let me. After looking through the pages, the catalog would join the stack of back issues that we kept on the bottom shelf of the cabinets in the living room. I can also remember the disappointment I felt when she had decided to throw some of them away. My heart was broken when I couldn't find my catalogs. So I eventually learned to ask if I could take the catalogs home when she was done looking at them....until I started received my free coupon in the mail to get my own catalog.
We both also enjoyed Country magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. She would keep them in the top drawer in the bathroom. The first year I got married her Christmas gift to me was my own subscription to both magazines. We both tired of Better Homes and Gardens because of all the ads, but I still have my Country magazines from that one year subscription sitting in my bathroom. And every time clean out the magazine rack in the bathroom, I just can't seem to toss those out.
My grandma loved her flower garden and yard. She had the best trees in her yard and all of us grandkids loved to climb in the trees. I remember that one spot in the tree that was the highest of all and we felt like we had mastered climbing if we could reach that one spot. And she would plant these flowers around the bottom of the tree that had edible stems. Us grandkids would pick her flowers and just sit there and chew on the stems. And her bushes made great hiding places for hide and seek, which was a regular game we played, as well as kick ball in her backyard. But she loved to water her plants and even when I water my plants I think of her. She had a sand box in her backyard and after the grandkids were too big to play in the sand, she turned it into another flower bed. Even up to this past year, she took pride in her rose bushes.
I can remember going walks for exercise around the block with grandma. If there was a garage sale in her neighborhood she would walk with us to the sale and she always had some change for us to buy something. I think we bought more stuffed animals than anything. Five cents here, a quarter there, and 10 stuffed animals later. We even had our family garage sales at grandma's house. I can remember her marking her belongings the days before the sale...five cents here, ten cents there.
Her neighbors all knew and loved her. The neighborhood kids would be able to come over to her house and play or we would go to their houses. Amy Klausmeyer at the end of the street, Becky Johnston across the street, Jason Doherty down the street, the Carnegies next door. Since we lived out in the country with few neighbors, for National Night Out we would go to grandma's house and hang out with her neighborhood. They all accepted us as part of the neighborhood because we were always at grandma's house.
Trick or treating was done at grandma's house, too. We all gathered at her house and then went around the block knocking door to door. Then when we were old enough, we got to pass out the candy at grandma's house. One year we all dressed in scary costumes and would spook the kids as they came up to the door. Grandma's neighborhood used to be the place to go on Halloween. Now only a handful of kids come knocking on the door.
Every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas was spent at grandma's house. Easter egg hunts, opening Christmas presents, and family pictures always happened at grandma's house. And for us, no other plans came before grandma's house. That's the place we wanted to be. There was always a feast of food and grandma would always be the last to eat. She would make sure everyone was fed first before she sat down with her plate. The year my brother got married, we had his wedding reception on Thanksgiving Day at grandma's house. Her house was always full of love no matter if only a few of us showed up or all of us showed up. And it just felt different with holidays being hosted anywhere else but there.
Fourth of July parades were spent with grandma and grandpa at the Round Top parade. We all rode tractors and trailers in the parade. Grandma grew up in Warrenton and went to school in Round Top, so it was like a homecoming for her to be in Round Top. Today Round Top and Warrenton are true Texas gems because of the antiques festivals that happen twice a year. People scour the grounds looking for that special treasure. I have the real treasure. My grandma's childhood home was on the corner where Cole's Place stands today in all it's junking glory. My grandma is a true Warrenton, Texas antique, prized above all the other treasures I could ever find. I have to be honest when I say that I feel a little proud to walk the grounds of Warrenton knowing that I'm walking on family land that is so highly sought after today.
Several of my birthday parties were at my grandma's house. I can remember my first grade birthday party with the picnic tables set up in the garage. I can also remember my third grade costume birthday party. Ashley and Ashton Jenkins came as witches. I also remember my fifth grade birthday party - a slumber party! My grandma opened up her home overnight for ten girls and boy do I remember the drama. We even turned the garage into a runway with lights for a fashion show. She really opened her home up to anyone.
My grandma made the best homemade donuts. Not the round kind you find at the donut shop, but the funnel cake kind of donuts. I loved being at grandma's house in the mornings because she would have donuts made and plate of sugar for you dip your donuts in. She also made the best Sunday Dinner Casserole. Luckily, she wrote the recipe down for me so I have her handwritten recipe forever.
My grandma hid candy just like her momma did, and if we found the candy she didn't mind sharing. Just the other day I found some candy still in her hiding place and shared some with Brazos and Sandy. Actually about four weeks ago, my grandma was already in a state where she didn't open her eyes often. When we went to visit her Brazos had a bag of M&Ms. He had asked his great granny if she wanted an M&M and she nodded her head, eyes closed, and shared her final M&M with him.
Every parade in town I knew I had someone to watch it with. Grandma would go to the parade with us, set up her chair, and enjoy the festivities. As soon as the parade was over, we'd pack up our chairs and go back home. I have precious pictures of her holding Brazos and Sandy at the Maifest parade and Cotton Gin parade.
When Matt was my date to homecoming, he didn't pick me up at my house. He picked me up at my grandma's house. I was always at my grandma's house. I can still remember the day I knew I really liked Matt and knew he would be a good husband. Matt was playing outside with my younger cousins, and I noticed how well he treated Bailee, who was only a toddler at the time. Good relationships start at grandma's house.
As I have grown into a woman of my own, I realize how much of my current life has been influenced by my grandma. My home is painted yellow because my grandma once told me it was her favorite color. Her nickname was sunshine, which makes you think of yellow. Although last year she told me her favorite color was never yellow.
I remember my grandma coming with me to shop for bridesmaid dresses. And I knew exactly what I wanted her to wear to my wedding. She had a purple dress she wore to church that I loved on her. So no need to buy a special dress because she already had the perfect one. As Matt and I were planning out wedding, we had discussed leaving Zionsville to find a church home of our own, but no place felt right without my family at church. We stuck to Zionsville because every Sunday as I sat in the back pew, the first thing I did was look for the back of my grandma's head. I was home because grandma was there. As soon as church ended, the first person I went to visit was grandma. I would hug her for a few seconds too long before letting her go get her coffee. My Sundays were complete because my family was at church.
It was extremely important to me that my two grandmas met my kids. I am so grateful that both Brazos and Sandy have been able to grow and love my grandma. When I first had Brazos, I still had six weeks of teaching before school was out. Brazos's time was split between my mom, Matt's mom, and grandma's house. She never turned down a chance to watch him, except for Fridays because that was her beauty shop day. Even when I started to stay home with Brazos, if I had to substitute teach one day or just needed to go to the grocery store by myself, grandma would gladly let Brazos come sit in her lap. I think one time she told me that she sat in her recliner the entire day with him in her lap. Remember those stuffed animals we bought, she always tried to give Brazos and Sandy a stuffed animal to take home. And you know how we both love JCPenney. I can recall a time or two when I would ask her to watch Brazos as I went shopping at JCPenney. She happily agreed and then would tell me that she had already went to Penney's to use her coupon, too. When we would get to grandma's house Brazos knew exactly where to find grandma sitting in her recliner and he would run to climb in her lap. I couldn't blame him. She had the most comfortable lap. It's amazing how the Lord makes our bodies. I mean, my body just conformed to her lap as if I was created just for her body. And I've noticed this about my own kids. They sit perfectly on my hips as if they were made just for my body and I for them. Even when grandma was at the nursing home, I crawled in bed and laid my head on her comfy shoulders. And when Sandy would fall asleep while we were there, she'd lay in grandma's bed and grandma would just set her hand on Sandy's head to protect her. Every Thursday after I picked the kids up from school we would go visit grandma at the nursing home. The kids would walk in the door and knew exactly where to find their great granny. They really loved the days that ice cream was being served. Even though the nursing home wasn't her "home" when I went to visit I still felt like I was going to her "home". It's not the places we call home, but the hearts that we live in.
There are three women in my life that I adore more than any other - my mom and my two grandmas. I always thought that I would be lost and crying forever when they left me. But when I received that phone call I had been anticipating for a while, sadness is not what overcame me. It feels awkward to say, but a small smile came across my face. The time just felt right. The past few times I had visited my grandma she was lying in bed sleeping. I would think to myself just how long is this endless sleep supposed to last. And when I received the news, I knew that her life was now full in the Lord. She was making that journey to see her mom and dad and to play with my sister. I know she had a grand welcoming crew as she entered the golden gates of Heaven. Now don't get me wrong, I am shedding tears right now as I write this. I'm happy and sad at the same time. But my other grandma, Grandma Lyles, who also got ill the same time as my Grandma Neumann told me, "Honey, stop your crying. I have lived a good life and I enjoyed all of it. I am okay. There is no need for tears." I'm pretty sure this is exactly what my Grandma Neumann would be telling me as well. About two months ago I showed grandma several of her past photos, you know the good black and white photos, and she told, "These are some good memories." So I know she enjoyed her life.
I feel like I'm forgetting something and I'm sure more memories will continue to flood my mind. She will forever be in my heart and I'm grateful for all the photos I have of her. I told her that I would try my best to teach Sandy so that she would grow into a woman like her great-grandmother. That is the greatest legacy we can leave behind. To try to be more like the amazing woman she was.