Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Eulogy

Our Matriarch (center) and her subjects. Christmas 1984
What image pops into your mind when you hear the word 'grandparents?' To me it's a white haired woman at the stove either making cookies, home-made soup or tea and a nearly bald man in bifocals reading the paper. Now as normal as this scene seems, it's an image locked in time for nearly a generation. That is to say, I remember all four of my grand parents in the same light from the time of my earliest cognitive memories to the time I got to the age that I started missing family gatherings due to school or distance. Yesterday my dad's mom passed away at 96. She was my last grandparent. This is naturally a time to reflect on what role grandparents, and especially Grandma Fetterer played in my life. Grandma & Grandpa Fetterer's house was the sight of many a holiday gathering. Actually every holiday was celebrated there! There were brat frys after any holiday that included a parade. And we were always there for Christmas and Easter. It had a perfectly rectangular yard which made it perfect for cousin vs cousin team sports; and a huge living and dining room for Christmas and Easter feasts. Then there were the lesser known, more private holidays when mom & dad would let my brother and I sleep over. Their's was a big house, so sleeping there afforded my kid brother and I the rare opportunity to have our own rooms. Most of the smells that trigger nostalgic reactions for me can be traced to that house. Chamomile tea, beef broth, moth balls, and snickerdoodles can all be traced there. That was Grandma's house. She took care of the house so that it was always a home to those who were there. She raised a family there -- my family.
Grandma may have been the originator of 'thinking outside the box.' That's the only way to explain some of the stories that came out of that house. Stories that seemed funny and cute when I was young, but now seem bordering on the verge of urban legend. Who in their right mind, after all, would save bacon fat and ham drippings, mix in some spices and flour and fry it as a breakfast meat? Grandma, that's who. And it was delicious (if you could get past the fact it was as black as road tar. The outside was crisp as a potato chip and the inside was the consistency of raw ground beef)! Who would think to market ketchup between two slices of bread as a black cat sandwich for a Halloween Boy Scout fundraiser? Grandma, again. Who would think to open all her canned vegetables and soup from the bottom so when the grandchildren would play 'store' all the shelves would appear to be stocked with full and proper canned goods? Yep. Grandma. This one though is by far my favorite, and so absurd I have Snopes.com looking into it's validity. I don't remember the orgin of this story, but somewhere I heard that grandma on vacation would float around the lake in an inner tube snacking on fresh radishes that she would dip in the salt that she filled her navel with. Now this begs all kinds of questions that I never thought to ask back when I originally heard this story. Primarily, who filled her navel, because she'd have to be laying down to do it? And, did grandma wear a bikini?
Through the years, the image of our grandparents doesn't waver. Even now that they're gone, we can picture their smiling faces greeting us at the door on a brisk Christmas morning. Their stories still make us laugh, they fortitude inspires us, their legacy moves us. They raised our folks and our folks raised us. Now we remember that wisdom, humor, and courage as we raise our own children. I still now remember that house, those smells, and that woman at the stove pouring me a cup of chamomile tea. That's my grandma.