I was her first born grandchild. She said she cried when I was born. I suppose she was happy to finally see me, her first of many granddaughters. I proudly share her middle name, as does my youngest.
As a child, her home on the lake promised fun and memories. It meant swarms of cousins, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends. It was a home that both my Grandmother and Grandfather constructed from the ground up with hard work, love, and mostly second hand materials. The process was gradual and the lesson was patience. In it, they raised 5 children; a daughter and four sons. My Grandmother mentioned to me in recent visits, while seated inside this very house, that she loved and still appreciated the home that my Grandfather provided. "I've had a wonderful life", she often concluded.
It's smell is disctinct and like nothing I could ever explain. I slept over many nights on Grandma's couch as a little girl and remember being woken each hour of the night by the cuckoo clock that never missed a beat. Once the bird chimed and coo'ed and slid back into the inner workings of its little house, I'd breathe in deep that comforting smell of Grandma's house and fall back fast asleep. Content. By morning, I'd wake to the smells of coffee, sometimes bacon, and always oatmeal. I never kept it a secret from my Grandma that her lumpy oatmeal was the very best around, and my absolute favorite breakfast ever. At Grandma's house the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and milk were available in unlimited quantities and to this very day, I make my family oatmeal for breakfast just as I remember eating it at Grandma's house so very long ago.
She and my Grandfather were always so supportive of my activities, and I vividly remember junior high and high school with them in it. Rarely did they miss a sporting event of mine, particularly basketball. They cheered and clapped no matter how poorly I played and usually waited after each game to give me a hug before leaving. That's was good grandparents do. My friends always said they were a cute couple seated in the stands among the crowd, and they were right.
Just a few years after high school, my Grandfather passed away. Our last conversation was via telephone, the day before his scheduled surgery. I had this undeniable urge, a nudge from Heaven I guess, to call him that afternoon. I'm forever grateful I did. I don't remember all the details of our last conversation but as we spoke, I know he was seated outside, in the sunshine, calm and relaxed. He told me so. He assured me he was not scared or worried for surgery the following day. He was a Godly man who knew better than fear. I'm sad Rob never got to meet him.
Through my eyes, Grandma adjusted well to widowed life. Her strong character came in helpful for the lonely years that followed. She continued to support me into my adult life and was very present for all of life's major milestones. She traveled to North Carolina from Ohio, with all oxygen gear in tow, to celebrate Thanksgiving in Rob and I's first home together. Newly moved and still unpacked, my Grandma was in our new-to-us, less-than-perfect home yet swore over and over again just how lovely of a home she thought it was. She was a part of our wedding, again traveling out of state to be there. I can still see her, seated and beautiful with a corsage on her shoulder, at her table during our reception. She enjoyed the evening of our wedding, and often commented how much she appreciated chatting and visiting most with Harold, Rob's father. She said he reminded her a bit of her own dad.
Grandma and I always stayed in touch, despite the distance between us. Her love filled me, even from afar. We relied on email and the ancient art of letter writing, shared birthday and holiday cards, and occasionally a surprise phone call. She was savvy, even friends with me on Facebook. But I enjoyed most the beautiful, calligraphy-like penmanship that flowed from her left hand which made her letters and cards all the more special. She was indeed proud to be a 'Lefty', teasing that Lefty's work from the "right" side of their brain. She was a witty one, no doubt, and her last letter to me will always be my favorite.
Once I became a mother, the love and admiration I felt for my Grandma grew immensely. I was able to be a mother because at some point in her young life, she chose to be one too. That's amazing to think about. Motherhood drew us closer, becoming another common thread between us. As life began to get rocky in those early days of motherhood with Oia, my Grandma's emails and cards continued to pour in with the most eloquent, yet simple words of encouragement and unconditional love. Often those emails were addressed to Oia, written specifically to her. Each email I read, usually more than once, before safely storing it in a folder titled 'great grandma'. That folder now contains five years worth of her emails. Each one I can open and read anytime I ever need to. Her words will one day be read and treasured by my girls and they will know her love; the reason I have saved them all.
I feel so blessed that I was able to give my Grandma two great-grandchildren and that the good Lord let her stay long enough to experience greathood. I tried my best over the years to share my girls and our family joys, and even the trials, with her as often as I could. She was my biggest cheerleader, our braviest prayer warrior, and an integral pillar to this party of four. But on the evening of January 18th, just two weeks ago, that pillar of me crumbled as my beloved Grandma met the faces of her angels as they safely guided her on the road to eternal peace. My Grandma was ready. "I've had a wonderful life" she'd say to me over and over, "...and you have a wonderful, wonderful family, Mo". The last words she said to me, over the phone just a couple of days before she passed, I love you, Sweetie, Bye-Bye. I hope I can remember the sound of her voice forever.
The loss of someone so dear guarantees an initial void and great sadness. But, I will remind myself of her "wonderful life" each time she creeps to mind and I will rebuild the pillar that she once was to me with her sweet memory and story. Memories of a classy woman who wasn't afraid to speak her mind, who deeply loved her family, who played on the floor with both my girls, and who read every last word I ever mumbled on this blog, which was created largely for her. I will smile each morning as I scoop unnecessary amounts of sugar into my coffee, or oatmeal, with an old spoon that used to be hers. I will point to her picture in Oia's room and remind my girls of their GG. I will think of her each time I see shades of turquoise, sip wine, or hear an Our Father. I will feel a little sick the next time we venture to Ohio knowing that she won't be there to hug. I know she will come to mind often, and probably when I least expect it. And when she does, I'll smile or nod or perhaps I'll even glance upward, and give thanks for the life I've had the priviledge of knowing and loving for the last 35 years. Because yes, she was a wonderful life. And although she is now gone, she will never, ever be forgotten.
In loving memory of Marilyn Anne Richter
October 27, 1930 ~ January 18, 2013