What my Grandma Taught Me About Life

In honor of my Grandma’s funeral I am taking a break from forbearances and deferments and listing a copy of the eulogy I am giving today.  Because frankly she deserves it. 

Honestly to show you how important this is I hate any social situation pretty much more than I hate anything. The last time I spoke in front of people was my high school graduation. But in a story for another day I lost an argument with God so here I am.

So for those of you who don’t know I am responsible for the nickname of Grandma Cow. As often times happened, when you have a Grandparent that lives further away you form a great attachment to this person because of the excitement of seeing them becomes such a special event. Despite her distance for a lot of my life and the pleasure of her living near me for the last decade or so, Grandma Cow has taught me a lot of lessons. I don’t know if she ever knew it, but I tended to just be a quiet observer so a lot just kinda sunk in. Here are the most important ones.

1. How to not be materialistic. First off Grandma taught me how not to be materialistic. Grandma Cow never cared about having things. She cared about helping those around her. If it was hers, it was yours because they were just things. You often times wonder when you look at the personality traits you developed how much influence others have on them. I own a pair of 10 year old cars, a flip cell phone, and a really small not HD TV. I also hate to buy for myself but love to buy for others. I blame grandma for this.

2. How to provide and overprovide.  Grandma also taught me how to not only provide but to overprovide. I’ve eaten a lot of Chicken McNuggets in my life and this is all Grandma Cow’s fault. So we could go to McDonald’s two sometimes 3 times a day. But for lunch and dinner I would get 20 nuggets. Which I would eat. So I asked for more. I think as an eight year old I was imaging more being 4 or 6 more. Back would come another twenty.

Mom and dad would drop me off in Somerset to stay on occasions. In doing so they would have the audacity to only leave me with $5.00 which I could use to buy a coloring book or a toy. But that wasn’t enough obviously because I needed more useless stuff in my life. So Grandma would give you $20.00 more dollars because “what do they expect you to get with only $5.00.”

She would give you the last of anything she had. I had taken home many a bag of half eaten chips to prove this. When my family went away for a week three years ago, Grandma gave me and Christianna a check for $15.00 so we “could buy ourselves lunch.” When Christianna and I would take her to an appointment she insisted on going out to lunch and paying. The list goes on and on.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this never changed. I was extremely glad I was able to have my daughter in enough time for Grandma to enjoy her. Reagan always smiled for her but I think personally Reagan’s motives were selfish Every time we went down Grandma would empty her wallet and give the last few dollars she had for her piggy bank. Her generosity in that sense never changed through the end.

3. Be yourself always. Grandma Cow was so genuine, quarks and all. This taught me to always be myself. Gosh did Grandma have her quarks. But she was always true to herself and that is something I admired most about her. This was most evident in the letters she wrote me while I was in college.

Just let me tell you these things were hilarious. She would take all week writing them. She never told me they took all week but once you read them it was obvious. Here is an excerpt as proof:

“I am going to bed now. Love you. Love you.”

next line

“Well good morning. Me and Pap Paul are going into town today.”

or my actual favorite

“We are headed to Wendy’s, talk to you when I come back.”

followed by

“I am back. I had a baked potato. The lady beside me did the goofiest thing…”

I never understood the chronological order of those letters but they always made me smile because it was just her through and through. Though just one example, Grandma was never afraid to be herself good and bad. I try to model this in my own life though occasionally I try to demonstrate slightly more tact or at minimum whisper a little more discretely.

4. Express your feelings. She taught me how to express your feelings. Grandma Cow was extremely opinionated. This could be good and bad. But the one great part about it was the fact that she was never afraid to tell you she loved you. In fact I distinctly remember one conversation, where I talked to her on the phone. She hung up and called back immediately because she forgot to tell me she loved me. Every card not only had “Love you in it” but it had it several times UNDERLINED. In fact Grandma was way ahead of her time. While people now post on Facebook different memes in lieu of saying what they actually feel Grandma would just underline what she felt in card. Originality and words were never her strong point.

5. How to deal with death. Perhaps most importantly, Grandma Cow taught me how to deal with death. This one affected me the most and the greatest source of comfort in the recent weeks. Grandma dealt with more death in her life than anyone person should. But she always handled it with such grace and more than anything strength. More than what any person I think ever could or should be able to. She kept great perspective through all of it. I think it was her faith and realizing that it was all part of God’s plan that allowed her to do so. I spent a lot of time thinking of how Grandma dealt with all these situations as I dealt with hers.

As I mentioned before I feel extremely blessed to have gotten to share my life events with Grandma Cow. Among these are marrying an amazing spouse who took the time to take care of grandma in any way needed from making her “famous” Olive Garden soup, fixing her washer, or doing anything else she needed. Grandma treated her great, as once you were in, you were family. I am glad she got to see her and I get married. I’m glad that my daughter was able to bring her such joy and that Reagan got to meet both of her amazing great grandmas despite never getting to meet either great grandfather.

I gave a lot of thought to last words and last conversations as of late. This had me thinking back to one of my favorite shows “How I Met Your Mother.” During the show one of the main characters, Marshall had his dad pass away. As a result he struggled with the fact that he never had a meaningful or impactful final conversation with his father. What he got instead was much more real, a pocket dial and a reminder that he should rent Crocodile Dundee 3. This is often times how last words are. Take my wife and her last conversation with her grandfather. Walking up to see him after a stroke, he remembered her (which he was having trouble doing for anyone) and said “Sam (his pet name for her). He said “Sam, you are getting fat.”

But honestly its not the last conversations that matter but the ones that lead up to it. Or the ones you don’t have at all as my favorite moments were sitting with Grandma Cow and Pap Paul at WalMart watching people and saying nothing. But even though the last conversations don’t matter, I’d still like to close sharing mine with Grandma. It was about a week before she died and right before she stopped talking very much. I popped in just to say hi and after doing so said I had to go to work. She asked what time work was till. I told her 9 pm. She made a face to which I said I know its a bad schedule. Grandma looked at me and came out with the last thing I ever expected. My grandma’s last words to me: “Tell them to kiss your rear end.”