21 January 2012

Ruth Williams Ball Allen

On January 10th my sweet Grandma Allen passed, only a month away from her 92nd birthday.  With a five week old Oliver and tight finances due to maternity pay a last minute trip to SL for the funeral did not happen.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I recognized that Oliver's health and our finances took priority.  I had the desire to place all practical considerations aside and make the trip.  Since making my decision to stay home my mind has been occupied with the tradition of funerals and their place in the grieving process (something to discuss later).  My main concern in not attending the funeral was not being able to honor publicly, and with others, the memory of my Grandmother and providing my family emotional support.

Of course my presence wasn't the only way in which I could provide emotional support to family members but I saw it as a significant gesture at such a momentous time.  And the best place to remember the life of my Grandma would have been at the funeral surrounded by those remaining friends and family who knew her best.  So in an effort to supplement the funeral in my own grieving process and more importantly to honor my Grandmother's memory I thought to make a simple list of things that reminded me of her and a few of the memories associated with those things. 

1. Watching "I Love Lucy" marathons on Nick-at-Night during the summer.

2. Late night top ramen with vitamin D milk (something that was rarely found at home, especially late at night).

3. The movie "Big Business" and Bette Midler music.

4. The song "My Blue Heaven".  As a child I would spend a couple weeks each summer out "at the Ranch" with my Grandma.  One summer I asked her nightly to sing to me the song, as I put it, "with the fireplace and staircase".  On the last evening of the trip my Grandmother successfully pieced together the patchy information that my six year old mind could recall and was able to sing me the song. 

5. David Letterman.  Evenings spent in my teen and young adult years at my Grandmother's home were filled with the same comment at 11:00 p.m., which was "I don't know why I watch that awful old man and his show - but I do".

6. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving at my Grandma's meant "petite shou" as a staple side dish, and immediately following dinner the family gathering around in the living room while my Dad busted out the dusty slide rounds and the 1960 projector screen and one of my cousins asking "who is that man" and another responding "oh, that's the gardener" - a term of endearment used to identify my Grandpa; and subsequently my Grandmother saying with part honesty and part mock frustration in regards to my Grandpa passing "oh that man - how could he leave me out here to rot in this red dirt" (a reference to the red rocks prevalent in the Uintah Basin).

7. Visiting my Grandma at my Aunt Laurie's home and my Dad teasing them with mocking disdain when he found her in a silk robe (the 1960 glamour type) by asking if she had enjoyed herself watching soap operas and eating bon-bons all day.  And her good-nature laugh and "yes" in response.

8. There's a phrase that refers to dancing when no one is looking.  My Grandma however lived by the mantra to dance only when others were looking.  At random moments my Grandma would break into song and dance much to the chagrin of my teenage cousins.  I'm sure I would have joined their camp had I not been nine + years their junior.  I was always mesmerized and enjoyed my Grandmother's attention grabbing performances.

9. Hearing my Grandmother's trilling call "Yooouuu-whooooo" (ended with a slight vibrato) in public places when attempting to call someone's attention.

10. Extended family functions with my Great Aunts, Great Uncles, and second cousins always meant you could count on an impromptu musical number.  My Uncle Jay was the Harry Connick Jr. voice and my Aunt Naine was the composing/piano playing genius.  And my Grandmother . . . she and her commentary were the 1960's glamour that attended those performances.

Much of these things must mean little to those who didn't know her as I feel that my words do little justice to describe who she was. But I loved her and I could never hide a bad day from her. I used to wonder as a child if she could read my mind. I love her and will miss her dearly.


Michemily said...

Top ramen with milk . . . any kind: how interesting! I've never thought of it, but since I love creamy soups, I may just have to try it.

I'm sorry about your grandma and I loved reading these wonderful memories of her. I'm also sorry that you couldn't make it to the funeral, but I feel certain that she knows you love her, as must others in the family.