I named my grandma “Mamo” when I was two. The way my parents tell it, I called her up on the phone and started addressing her as such from that day on. My sister and cousins followed suit.
When my twin and I were little, she’d watch us while my parents were gone. She had a drawer full of candy that we tag teamed to wiggle open as toddlers. There was always fruit roll ups, huge lollipops and Ritz crackers for us to eat.
We went out to her house every Sunday after church. She cooked mashed potatoes and gravy for us and also kept cans of black olives for us to stick on our fingers and run around the house before eating.
Mamo gave us different types of candy that we used for medicine to play doctor (the innocent kind) with upstairs in my aunt’s room with her stethoscope. We had play syringes, thermometers and other instruments we’d occasionally insist on using on her.
When I was older, she’d come play outside with us. We’d sit on a blanket and eat baloney and mayonnaise sandwiches and play with puzzles. Sometimes she’d bring her extra wrist watch out with us and time me as I raced to and from the grain bin. She was still able to walk then and sometimes she’d race with me.
We spent the night with her and in the morning she’d make scrambled eggs and fried spam. She’d always tell us the same story about how she and her brothers slept on opposite directions on the bed and would constantly kick each other in the head.
I started AWANA at a local church that a lot of my classmates went to and Mamo was ecstatic about that. I’d go to her house after piano lessons on Tuesdays and often times stay the night so that she could help me work on my memory verses. She’d pull out her large, marked up bible and read them together with me. She listened to me recite them over and over until I got it right and then I’d call her and tell her my progress from the church after the leaders signed off on the sections we’d memorized.
She used to stop by our house on the way home from work and bring us McDonald’s ice cream and apple pie. Sometimes we got to visit her office at work, which was piled high with stuffed animals that she gave out to the orphans and foster children that passed through there every week.
We used to collect pennies together. Somehow we were always looking down at the right time to find where someone had dropped one. She kept jars full of coins that she saved for my cousins, my sister and I.
Tornadoes were one of the most exciting things to her. That and the cattle getting out. And maybe harvest time. She lived in the same house out in the country for nearly her entire life, so the world revolved around the waving fields of wheat outside the window.
She was constantly buying us something. I have an entire collection of Land Before Time inspired Precious Moments stuffed dinosaurs at my parent’s house from her. When I was older she bought me nice clothes that would actually fit my “petite figure” as she called it.
She tried to encourage and support me in my endeavors, whether it was a job at her favorite ice cream place, boy troubles (ohhh the talks we had – I had a hard time dealing with people being interested in me and she was one of very few people who didn’t think that was strange), starting college and anything and everything in between.
I eventually went to live with her. The night I got engaged, I came home and although she could no longer stand, she nearly jumped out of her electric wheelchair when she saw my ring. She was so excited she could barely contain herself.
We had a lot of fun living together. I lived upstairs and she lived on the first floor. I’d leave for work and she’d kiss me goodbye and then I’d come home that night and she’d be waiting for me. I always grabbed my cross stitch or homework and sat down with her in front of the TV to watch her favorite slightly dirty (Newlywed Game, anyone?) shows. She’d watch me sewing more than she watched the shows. She’d always tell me she wished she could sew and mourned the loss of the ability often. Her hands were badly crippled from arthritis and I stopped sewing in front of her on occasion, but she’d always say she wanted to see me do it more.
Over the years I spent a lot of time with her. I made bonfires out by the barn, drove her around on the golf cart down the pasture, shoveled snow in her driveway, made her freezer burnt Red Wheel burritos and helped her with various tasks around the house and farm.
She was the one who taught me about so many controversial issues, and not with church answers but with genuine conviction. While a lot of people grumbled about how long Communion took at church, she looked forward to it (and passed that on to me).
Throughout my childhood, she broke her hips multiple times and we took her to the doctor and the emergency room regularly. I honestly just thought that hospital trips were at least a biannual thing for all families.
My grandma, for all the amazing stories I have about her, was a very complex person. The majority of her health problems stemmed from a stressful childhood, a horrible relationship with food, and addictions that she fought.
Her struggles didn’t make her a bad grandma to me, though some people have thought that. It is easy to romanticize someone after they have passed, but I don’t want to do that with her. She was an amazing person to me BECAUSE of her addictions, eating disorder and rough childhood.
My grandma did some very regretful things in her life. She was imperfect at dealing with the things her life had thrown at her, but she trusted God. She knew the truth, beyond a shadow of a doubt, about who she was and who her Savior was. It showed. I saw it in everything she did. I saw it every time she gave in to temptation and every time she resisted. I saw it in her decaying body and in her lively, faithful spirit.
To me, she was the very embodiment of this passage
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
When I learned about Christians being both saint and sinner, she was, and to this day is, the most stunning example of that in my eyes.
Three years ago today, after a long and hard battle with her demons of mind and body, she went home to be with our Lord. I miss her dearly.
This was one of our first verses we memorized together. May it bring you the comfort that it did to both of us.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. – Psalm 100:3
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