Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blue & Red Memories

With our greenhouse season in full swing, I don't have much time during the day to think about anything besides plants and customers. My days are so busy that I actually need to remind myself most days to eat.  Needless to say, the month of May does not afford time to relax and contemplate life like the month of January does.  The craziness of the past few weeks has actually been a welcomed distraction, though, because any fleeting moments of reflection I experience lately have been bringing pangs of realization that my Grandma Blue is gone.

I was luckier than most kids growing up.  I lived within a few miles from both sets of grandparents and spent a significant amount of time with them during my childhood.  My parents were barely into their twenties when I showed up, so I'm sure having my grandparents so involved in my upbringing was a huge help to them.  I greatly appreciate the fact that I was able to have four grandparents throughout the first three decades of my life. 

It wasn't until sixteen months ago that I lost my first grandparent.  My Grandpa Red suffered a fatal heart attack while trimming a tree in the August heat.  My Grandma "Blue" seemed lost without her husband and, after a stint in the nursing home this past year, passed away quietly last week. 

Death is so unbelievably final, but I'm very grateful for my memories.

My Maternal Grandparents--Blue and Red
My Grandpa Red grew up in Richland Center, WI and was the all-American type of teenager.  He was a standout athlete and student leader. He was one of the gentlest people I knew, and I miss him dearly.  I miss the way he always called his grand kids, "Dude," and how he would grip tightly to the top of my shoulder as a way to show his affection.  He could fix anything and had his garage packed with tools, spare parts, and coffee cans of miscellaneous screws and bolts.  He always seemed to have at least one black-and-blue fingernail, and I can still picture him sitting in a lawn chair cleaning his fingernails with his ever present pocketknife.  His eyes were the palest blue.

My grandma grew up in New Richmond, WI and graduated from UW-La Crosse with a physical education/history degree.  She was a high school phy. ed. teacher who took great pride in my athletic accomplishments.  She's the reason I became a tomboy at an early age, and she instilled in me the attitude that women can do anything they want to do--no explanation needed.  She was a strong woman with strong opinions who cherished her family.  I wouldn't be the strong, independent woman I turned out to be if it hadn't been for her.  She had a sun-kissed tan complexion year round, and I have her to thank/blame for my unladylike, large hands.

Both my grandparents were active individuals.  They maintained an annual membership at the local golf course and golfed at least three days a week every year that I can remember.  When we were kids, they would take my brother and I with them golfing throughout the summer.  We would ride on the back of their golf cart, and my grandma would toss a ball near the green for each of us to chip and putt.  As we got older, my brother and I carried our own clubs and golfed alongside them, with my grandma wearing her trademark pastel baseball cap with the pom-pom on top. 

My grandparents also taught me to swim.  Being a lifeguard in college, my grandma made sure I was swimming by the age of three.  I can remember quite vividly going to the local pool with her to meet up with her friend Doris.  The three of us would swim laps in the pool and steam in the sauna each morning before my grandma dropped me off at afternoon kindergarten.  My grandparents also took me to the local beach.  I clearly remember clinging to my grandpa's back as he swam us out to the dock in the middle of the St. Croix River.  His cannonballs made the biggest splashes.

During high school, both of my grandparents were permanent fixtures at all of my home athletic events.  Whether it was in the bleachers during volleyball and basketball games or in their lawn chairs along first base line, they were there cheering me on constantly.  I could do no wrong in their eyes, and my Grandma Blue and Grandpa Red were proud of everything I did. I know I took this for granted growing up, and I will miss having these two individuals in my corner through thick and thin.

It's funny how memories, ones that were tucked away in a brain's recesses, begin flooding your consciousness once a loved one is gone.  Anytime I get a quiet moment to think, my brain begins recalling interactions I had with my grandparents--ones I will never have again.  You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.   I am very thankful for these piles of good memories associated with my grandparents, but they make the loss harder to get over.

It makes me sad to think that any children I might possibly have will not experience such a close and long term relationship with their own grandparents. I am much older than my parents were when I was born, and every year I put off having children is one less year those children will have with their grandparents.  I owe so much to my Grandpa Red and Grandma Blue, and I can't imagine how my life would have been without them.  By putting off childbearing, am I making my future children's childhood less fulfilled because the time spent with their grandparents will certainly be much less than the time I had with my own? 

On the way home from my grandma's funeral, I took a few hours to fish a piece of water located a few miles from where I grew up.  It's hard to believe I had never been there before, and I greatly appreciate the directions provided by a friend.  It was just the type of fishing I needed that day; it was a quiet, solitary place.  The hike to the river took me down into a steep ravine strewn with limestone rocks, moss, and ferns.  The ravine eventually led to the water I was seeking.  The first trout I caught was a very nice brook trout on a dry fly, which fittingly had bright Red and Blue markings.

They would still be very proud of their granddaughter.