Monday, December 31, 2012

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Grandma Thomas

My 94-year-old grandmother died just before Christmas. I ended up speaking at her funeral last Thursday. This was defiantly a first for me. Below is a copy of the story I told about her. My cousin Sarah suggested that I collect memories of Grandma from all of the grandchildren to read at the funeral. I posted those also.

When I still lived in Provo, I’d call Grandma every month or so to see how she was doing. And every time she’d ask me for a favor—“Could you take my old newspapers to the recycle?” or “Do you think you could come wash my windows when you have a moment?” Asking me for a ride was the most common. I cannot recall her ever driving a car, which makes me assume that she never learned how. Grandma knew the meaning of nearly every English word, was a working woman when there were not many working women, survived nearly 40 years with no husband, and learned to use the Internet while in her 80s, and yet she refused to sit behind the wheel of car. When juxtaposed with Grandma’s previous accomplishments, not driving a car granted grandma’s character a complexity that I didn’t fully understand.
During the summer of 2006 Grandma asked me to drive her to the UPS store to mail a package and then to the doctor. The package was something she purchased online, no small feat for a woman in her early 90s. Our first stop was the UPS store. It was a few doors down from a military recruitment station. At this time, Grandma walked with a dark wood cane that was beat up and chipped, her right shoulder leaning into it with each slow shuffled step. Even though my truck is not much further from the ground than a small car, it was still difficult for her to get in and out, so I left her in the passenger seat with the engine running and the air conditioning on as I went into UPS to mail her package.
As I was chatting with the clerk, I looked out the window to see my pickup freely rolling backwards with Grandma inside. Her face was somewhere between fear and terror as her arms waved franticly above her head, hands grasping at the air as though she were trying to grip some lever or pulley that might bring the vehicle to a stop.
In hindsight, I knew I should have ran after the truck, leaped into the driver’s seat, and heroically slammed on the brake, but I didn’t. I froze. Like Grandma, I was also lost somewhere between fear and terror. I just stood there and watched Grandma roll backwards in my pickup. To what end, I didn’t know.
The truck rolled about 50 feet and eventually came to a jerking stop against an Air Force recruitment van. I finally ran to her, feeling horrible for not setting the parking break. However, she took on the responsibility for the accident, saying, “Clinton, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I kept pushing down on the floor,” she raised and lowered her right leg as though she were searching for a break pedal on the passenger floorboards. “I didn’t know how to stop it. You know, I’ve never driven a car. I hope your pickup is all right.”
I told her it was OK, made sure she wasn’t hurt, and then went into the recruitment station to let them know about the damage to their vehicle. I was 24-years-old at the time. Needless to say I received a lot of attention from military personal. One of the officers, a muscular man in his early 40s, over 6 ft. tall, and dressed in a neatly pressed military uniform, walked with me out to the parking lot to investigate the damage. As we walked, he told me about all the benefits military service can offer and how the Air Force would, “Make me into a better man and a better American.” I have always been intimidated by strong men like this. I wasn’t forward enough to tell him that I wasn’t interested and that I was doing just fine. So I just let him talk.
Once we reached Grandma, the officer asked me how I was paying for school, and I told him I was receiving a few scholarships. He told me the damage to the van was minimal and not to worry about it. As we spoke, Grandma sat listing in the truck, her hands meekly in her lap, the window rolled down. The officer approached Grandma, hunched down to meet her eyes, smiled, and said, “Don’t you think your grandson would make a fine soldier?”
Grandma opened her eyes wide, pulled her head back, and said in her soothing English accent, “Oh… I don’t know about that. He’s doing just fine. We need to get to the doctor.” She lightly tapped her fingers against the dash like they were putting the conversation to an end. And in that moment, as she stood up to this lean tough man in a uniform, I saw a glimpse of the strong woman who broke sexual and social barriers by going into the controversial European female workforce despite being a coal miner’s daughter. The determination of a computer literate woman in her late 80’s. The audacity of a mother of five. I’d never been so proud to be her grandson.

Melissa Christensen
My first memory of Grandma is of me sitting on the washing machine and her playing Little Piggy's on my toes.  Grandma knew many nursery rhymes.  Years later, she shared them again with my children and often explained their complexities. Grandma believed nursery rhymes were an important part of learning to read.
She also shared her wisdom with me every week on our outings to the grocery store, department store, or doctor. Axioms such as, Have what you need and a little extra, you never know when you might run out; See the beauty in every changing season; With maturity comes patience; Be a giver not a keeper, and always give your best; If you have an interest, it is probably one of your talents, develop it; Read! Be educated; and appreciate everything you have, from an indoor bathroom to the many options at a grocery store. We truly live in a wonderful era.
Clint Edwards
In 2004 I took freshman composition and Grandma meticulously edited every one of my assignments. When she handed back my papers, each sentence was always spackled with commas, apostrophes, and the occasional semicolon; her gentle scrawl filling the margins with suggestions. And as I looked over the edits, her sitting in a rocker, me on a wooden chair, she always gave me this disclaimer, “Now Clint, I don’t know much about anything, so take these comments for what they are worth. Which isn't much.”
K Joseph Thomas
When I was little Grandma asked if she could make me some knitted booties to wear. She told me to pick out two yarn colors from her bin. I chose pink and brown. Ivan was seriously concerned about my color choice. Grandma didn't see anything wrong at all. (I eventually changed my mind). I love that she pursued her talents for as long as she could and used her talents to bless the lives of others. To this day, my kids love to read the books that Great Grandma Effie gave them as well as play with the toys and stuffed animals that she has provided over the years. Her influence, memory, and legacy will live on in our home.
Ryan Edwards
Most visits to grandma’s house involved a stop at Wendy’s to pick up kids meal for Grandma and later Starbucks to collect a Latte for myself. Upon arrival Grandma would promptly inform me of a problem with her computer. I’d resolve the issue with Grandma’s computer and spend the next 2 hours discussing the Renaissance, the Dark Ages, the World Wars, or the Cold War. Grandma’s love of history was as strong as my own and I truly felt that we were kindred spirits that understood each other and shared a passion for the past and how it has shaped the present. Days after our conversations I would usually receive a delivery from It would contain a book or a video that covered the time period we’d discussed. I made it clear to Grandma more than once that she didn’t have the money to buy me such gifts, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I cherish the conversations and debates I had with Grandma Thomas during the course of her life.
Adam Thomas
When I think of Grandma Effie, I think of her homemade hats and sweaters. To this day, I wear hats made ye Grandma. They were always my favorites.
Sarah Torres
Grandma was very generous. From her I learned that you don't have to have a lot of possessions to share with others. I also learned to take pleasure in simple things like ice cream, French fries, a quality chocolate bar, a cozy sweater, and a good book.
We often exchanged books. Grandma read book reviews, and if she saw something she thought I’d like, she’d have it delivered to me. Once she sent a book that was slightly risqué! The next time I saw Grandma she apologized profusely for recommending a book that was so "earthy." She thought it was "rubbish" and was so sorry for sending it. I always think of her when choosing books and remember not to waste time on, "rubbish."
Grandma wasn't overly affectionate, but I knew she loved me by the things she did for me. I will miss her greatly. I am blessed to have called her, "Grandma," and I am grateful to know that we will see each other again.
Anthon Metzger
When I was in second grade Grandma knitted me a nice blue and grey horizontally striped sweater for Christmas. One of my friends thought it was really nice and wanted one. My mom got the measurements of his arms and shoulders and sent them to Grandma, who promptly made my friend a sweater. It really made him happy.
Ben Metzger
I enjoyed grandmas’ stories about her relatives in England.  We often talked about what she witnessed during her life: 1920’s and the discovery of insulin; 1924 the discovery that the Milky Way galaxy is just one of many galaxies; 1930’s and the discovery of penicillin; 1952 the polio vaccine, 1953 the helical structure of DNA; and 1963 plate tectonics theory.
She talked about how radio was once central to communication but now we use television.  She talked about using horses for transportation and how she lived to witness the space shuttle.  She went from cooking with coal, to cooking with a microwave.  She began using an outhouse and passed away in a home with TWO indoor bathrooms.  She went from using shorthand, to the Internet.  What a miraculous life!  I am grateful that I can pass on to my children Grandmas’ stories of harder times so they can be grateful for what they have.
Andrew Christensen
Grandma came to my 5th grade class and gave a presentation.  (She was 89 at the time.)  Grandma is a little shy, so for her to do this it must have taken a little bit of guts, but she did it for me.  She typed up an essay on the bombings to Great Brittan during WWII, and then helped me present it in class.  The presentation was amazing, everybody in my class was in awe, but I appreciated it most of all.

John Thomas
As a child, when I got mad at my parents I’d pack all my things into a little red wagon and “run away” to Grandma’s house next door. To make me feel better, Grandma would make me peanut butter and honey sandwiches and let me watch Winnie the Pooh in her living room. She always had a way of cheering me up.
Michaela Christensen
My favorite memory of grandma is that every week at the grocery store she would buy me a small box of animal crackers with a string handle.
Anne Herrera
Visiting Grandma Thomas was always fun because she would tell us stories about her life in England, and at the end of the visit, she would always offer us a treat
Marie Porras
The things that remind me most of Grandma Thomas are fish and chips, yarn and knitted things (Boy could grandma knit. We were never cold.), and Almond Roca. She gave me some Almond Roca when I was a little girl. I had never had them before and thought they were really good. Now every time I have an Almond Roca, it takes me back to Grandma’s house.
Alex Metzger
Grandma knitted a white blessing dress and blanket that all three of my daughters wore on their blessing day.  A large yarn collection was in her laundry room. She used it to make hats with the pom pom tops, sweaters, and coats with hoodies for my girls and many other children.  She was always in the middle of reading at least two books.  She read the newspaper everyday, had a sharp mind, and could easily recall details from her childhood. She leaves behind a gracious spirit of serving others without wanting anything in return.  She was content with her life, never negative.  She was a great example.


Anita said...

She sounds like she was a truly amazing woman, Clint. From some of those stories, it makes me wish that I had known her and sat beside her while she shared her great memories and knowledge. You were very, very lucky to have her in your life!!

Clint Edwards said...

Anita: Thank you! Your comment means a lot to me.