NaBloPoMo...My Grandmother's Dash



 November, 2006.  That was just yesterday to me.  Tomorrow I'm driving to Iowa to intercept the hospice people who are coming in to talk to my mother, I'm not so sure my mom should give up her fight yet.  My mom, is not so sure.  Six years ago this month it was my grandmother's fight.  My mom had just put my grandmother, Reba Davison, in a nursing home because my grandmother refused to take her medications...that's right, grandma was off her meds...which these days would qualify as some stupid reality show...TONITE, on MTV...GRANDMA'S OFF HER MEDS...Grandma Reba takes on Hell's Angels at Walgreens while waiting for her XANAX refill with hilarious results...they'd probably air it right after that other cute reality show, Jersey Shore...

Or not.  Wrong demographics.  But then grandma probably was tough enough to take on the Angels if she had really wanted to...(as long as it didn't interfere with Lawrence Welk on the tube)...My grandma was a fighter.  She had to be to survive in her household.  She was the eighth child of nine kids (and she outlived them all) and raised in a very poor Quaker household with no car, and at times, no horse.  I use to ask my grandmother about the depression but she always told me the same thing, she barely noticed it.  She was already so poor, it didn't matter.  But she survived the depression, and then married, and then widowed, with two young children.  After my grandfather's death, they lost everything, the income, the home they stayed my grandmother went back to work, raised my mom and uncle, and saved enough to send them to college.  How did she do that?  That's what the IRS wanted to know.  They actually audited her a couple of years in a row during the 50's, but I'll tell you how she did it, it was no secret.  She worked her butt off, saved every cent she could, and demanded nothing but the best out of her kids.  And then, after my mom graduated, my grandmother did something very unusual for women in their 50's in 1962...SHE went to college.  It was so unusual for that time that she was actually a front page article in the Mason City, Iowa paper...something to the effect of "old lady goes to college." 

After my grandmother became an LPN, she got hired by all of her friends kids to take care of their parents when they couldn't take care of themselves.  She was still doing private nursing into her 80's when she was forced into retirement, because all of her friends had passed away. My biggest memory of her during this period was being a passenger of hers in her 1967 Chrysler "boat" of those giant gas guzzlers that she eventually only drove to church, except that she drove over lawns and sidewalks to get there (completely oblivious to her screaming neighbors as she HATED wearing her hearing aids).  Yep.  There she was balancing her 86 year old butt on TWO Mason City Iowa phone books (hey, it's a small town, you need two) so she could look over the steering wheel and see who she was cutting off..."stupid kids" she would mutter to the 60 year old guys that had to jump out of her way.  My dad finally had to sneak into her garage and disable her car so she would stop driving...

My grandma use to tell us grandkids about this one famous actress she had known and occasionally babysat for when she lived in Des Moines by the name of Cloris Leachman. She told us this (whopper?) gem back in the early 70's when Cloris Leachman had just won an Oscar and was in a hit television show called Phylis. We had a hard time believing her, "OUR GRANDMA from Iowa had actually met some one famous?"...But sure enough, one day in the 90's my grandma actually wrote Cloris Leachman a letter and when Cloris did a show in Minneapolis, she actually took my grandma out to dinner and gave her a couple of tickets to her show. This picture of her and Cloris was proudly displayed in her front room 'til right before she died...just so she could show it off with a "I told you so". It's one of the few pictures I have of her with a smile on her face.  She was such a no nonsense Quaker, she wasn't the kind of person who would get in touch with her emotions... 


Here I'm sobbing like a baby as I type this but I already know how my grandma would handle the death of someone she loved...when her second husband died in 1968 my mother said she could come live with us for a while and grandma said "No."  She needed to go home and face her new life without a husband head on...AND SHE DID...She wasn't afraid of giving her opinion and did to just about anyone who crossed her path, the mailman, the neighbors, cops, didn't matter...she was staying for a week with us when my dad once came home very late from work (what I mean by very late; he stopped at the bar) and she complained about how noisy he had been when he came in through the door, to which my dad replied, "that's where I got you Reba, I came in through the window!"


 But she mellowed out in her final 10 years and when you came to visit, she made it impossible for you to leave, she'd give you anything she owned just so you would stay a few more minutes, and it got so you couldn't get out of there under an hour...and, I'm SUCH A MORON! REALLY, WHAT WAS MORE IMPORTANT THEN SPENDING SOME TIME WITH MY GRANDMA?! Here she was, in her 90's and I'm watching the clock thinking "here's that same story again"...But you know what? I'd give every last cent I have, just so I could hear her tell it again, right now. After we held her graveside service we went to a little cafe she would have liked and when I went back one more time to her gravesite, she was already buried and there was fresh soil over her casket and just like that, my grandmother was gone.

 was trying to think of a way to honor her, being that the cherry tree I planted in her honor didn't make it, further proof that her green thumb skipped my generation! A wonderful friend emailed me this poem written by the awesome Linda Ellis whose wise words perfectly described the person, that was my grandmother.

I read of a man who stood to speak, at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth, and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth, and now only those who loved her, know what that little line is worth. For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash, what matters is how we live and love, and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard, are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left, that can still be rearranged. If we could just slow down enough, to consider what's true and real, and always try to understand the way other people feel. And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more, and love the people in our lives, like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash, might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is being read, with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

I truly hope my grandmother knows how proud I am of her dash.

 Cindy Huber


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NaBloPoMo November 2012


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