A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do.  – Lois Wyse

For the past several years my mother has been a grandmother – and what a wonderful grandmother she is. I love watching her with my nephews, Parker, 6, and Freddie, 4, and niece, Carolyne, almost 2, and especially with my own sons who are older.  No matter the grandchild she is with, it is neat to see Mother with her “Grandma Smile” on.

Like my sons, nephews, and niece, I was blessed with a wonderful grandmother. I don’t think there was a kinder, wittier and more involved grandmother who lived. Of course, I have to be careful as my mother is so much like her own mother in the grandma department. When I was born in September 1964, I had young and unused grandparents – Grandma Donna was 40 and Grandpa Leroy almost 43. My uncles, Ron and Tom, were 12 and 10 years older than me. In many respects, it was like having second parents and older brothers who lived around the corner from where I grew up.

I think I got my sense of humor from my grandmother (and grandfather), and my love for practical jokes (which has been a family standard for several generations!).  As a child I spent a great deal of time with Grandma Donna while Mother worked at Dr. Wirth’s office. We would bake (something I still cannot do well) in her kitchen and she would tell me the family stories and our history. In warm weather she would ride me on her bike out to watch the high school Panther Band practice their Indiana State Fair competition show. We also spent a good deal of time with her parents, Grandpa Garrett and Grandma Belle. Grandma Belle was like an older version of Grandma Donna, and from all I gathered, Grandma Donna’s grandmother, Grandma Jones, was not any different.

My mother comes from a long line of wonderful grandmothers who have a special place in the hearts of their grandchildren.

When I was in the 7th grade, we learned that my grandmother had chronic lymphatic leukemia. I was apprehensive at first but soon came around after Grandma, during a visit to the family cemetery, laid down behind her pre-planned head stone and asked, “Do you think I will fit?” After that, I learned how to incorporate humor into any of life’s darker moments.

Grandma Donna (and Grandpa Leroy) never missed any of my minor/little league baseball games, parades, band contests, the junior high/high school concerts, the Elwood Variety Show, Ball State football games, Ball State Singer Spectaculars, BSU Chamber and Concert Choir concerts… like Mother, they were there for everything. Each time I left for overseas with a Ball State ensemble, they were there at the loading dock to wave us off.

The Spring of 1992, Grandma seemed to battle one infection after another. One morning in June, she completed crocheting me an afghan for Christmas.  That night at the dinner table, she collapsed and was hospitalized. We soon discovered she had cancer of the colon (or liver) and would not recover. For those two weeks we surrounded her bed with funny family stories and other general talk as though she was wide awake and conversing with us. Mother had the horrible decision to make, and on Saturday morning, June 27th, we gathered around her bed one last time. The life support was removed and we stood for several hours – but her heart continued to beat. Finally, it was recommended that the ventilator be removed. The pulse began a gradual descent. Everyone said their farewells. I was the last. I leaned over and whispered, “I’ll see you later… my first Tony Award is for you. I love you.” Then, while kissing her forehead and holding her hand, I heard my cousin Debbie cry, “She’s gone.”

In so many ways, it was a beautiful moment. That minute transition between life and the life beyond is filled with so much mystery, yet so much natural beauty. Saying “goodbye” to my grandmother was probably the most difficult farewell I have endured. The sad thing for me today is that Grandma Donna is not physically present for my sons, my nephews, and my niece to know personally.  But, I honestly believe there is a part of Grandma Donna in each of them, just as she is in my brother, Destin, and I, and our mother.

Wherever you are tonight, Grandma… thank you! And I haven’t forgotten my last promise!

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