I love this picture. It’s of my Hawaiian family. This picture was taken circa 1982, I’m guessing. See that little girl in the middle with the big smile and the crazy eyes? Yeah, that’s me. More importantly see the gentleman holding my hand? That’s my Grandpa. Today I thought a lot about grandparents. How awesome they were, how we honor them after they pass, and how they helped shape who we are. I know many of us out there have/had grandparents that were/are equally amazing. This is for you, and them.
Simeon Bright was my mom’s dad. In the 40’s he played the ukulele, sang, and wrote songs in a fairly famous radio show called Hawaii Calls. Unfortunately he passed when I was only in 2nd grade and since he lived in Hawaii, I didn’t get to spend a ton of time with him while he was alive. I remember he loved teaching me about my culture. Any opportunity was a teachable moment. I remember clearly the day he taught me the word Shaka, which means “hang loose” he would say it in such a way it would always make me giggle. He had a great smile and so much love for me and my sister.
The lady seated in the picture with a baby in her lap (my sister) is my Grandmother, Dorothy Bright. We called her Nana. When I was in my 20’s she came and lived in our home with my parents and sister. We loved having her around all the time, turns out she’s quite the funny lady. When my sister or I would saunter down the stairs in the morning she would sing “There she is, Ms. America….” I introduced her to grilled cheese… seriously she was in her 70’s and never had grilled cheese! Living in Hawaii is a lot like living in a completely different universe so things like grilled cheese are not necessarily the norm like they are on the mainland. To make matters sillier, she would ask me to make them for her extra burnt! Another thing I’ve always taken for granted was the changing leaves in the fall. Sure they’re pretty but, it happens every year, no big deal right? Well it doesn’t happen in Hawaii. Nana would have me pick out the prettiest ones for her. She would press and dry them to send in letters to her friends on the Islands. We had two cats at the time, Booger and Hershey but she gave them her own nicknames… Booger was small and slinky so she called her Mo’o which is Hawaiian for lizard. Hershey was a barn cat and a total grump so she called her Snew (sp?) which I believe was Portuguese for old man. She also referred to Mt. Rainier as “The Stately Lady.” I always though the mountain was a dude. After I turned 21 and started exploring the adult beverage world, she would wait up for me… with ice cream. We’d each have a bowl and I’d share my adventures with her. Spending her last years with her under our roof was such a blessing. There isn’t a day that goes by where her funny little way doesn’t somehow trickle into my memory or my behavior.
Grandpa Sturgeon was my Dad’s dad. He was the foundation of our family. Every Sunday growing up, we went to church in the morning and over to Grandma and Grandpa’s in the afternoon. Often my dad’s two brothers and their families came as well. My cousins, sister, and I would perform skits, tell jokes, sing, and dance to entertain our parents and grandparents. Grandpa had a truck with a cb radio that played silly little ditties like “La Cucaracha” with the flick of a button. When I first got my license I would go pick him up to run errands. We would go to the Pechenpaugh pharmacy for Grandma’s prescriptions and then to the liquor store for boxed wine…. classy stuff. When I would get home, I would find out via reprimand from my father that he ratted me out for going 5 mph over the speed limit! Still I could never be mad at him, he was Grandpa. When I think back on it, all those family gatherings were always so full of joy and laughter. He would sit back and just smile at all of us as if he was savoring each moment with this boisterous family he shaped.
He passed when I was 17. I was devastated as was the entire family. It seemed to take years for all of us to return to some semblance of what our family and our gatherings used to be. We just didn’t know how to do it without him.
At his wake, I put a heart shaped rose quartz in his casket. Rose quartz is associated with love in its purest form. I put all my memories and love for him in that rock as a send of and a way of saying goodbye. A few weeks after he passed, my parents were working on getting my grandmother into an assisted living home and going through all their stuff (we all know how grandparents have stuff…. TONS of stuff). They came across a coffee can full of rocks. Who the hell would care about rocks? Me! That’s who! I love rocks, geology, gemstones, etc. I’m what is referred to as a “rock hound”. There were bloodstones, quartz, and some other really remarkable items. When I asked about it, it turned out Grandpa collected and polished those rocks himself… he was a rock hound too! I never knew! In a way I felt like he had answered me through these rocks. I gave him one, he gave me many. They hang out in glass vases around my home and I add to them often to keep memories of places and events in my life.
Grandma Sturgeon was the classic house wife, mom, and grandma type. Doilies, afghans, and those chalky dinner mints that looked totally unappetizing but you couldn’t stop eating them arg! Once upon a time a treasure trove of old film reels were discovered. I can’t remember if it was my dad or one of my uncles who took the film and turned them into vhs tapes (before dvd’s). That was when I found out Grandma was a flapper girl! There were videos of her when she was young furiously kicking up her heels in a badass charleston with tassels all over her dress and feathers in her headband. I couldn’t believe this woman who I always saw as subdued and modest was once such a wild woman! Grandpa was her rock and her life, when he passed; sadly she had a hard time getting on without him. She was often lonely and sad. It was hard to watch. When she passed I was so relieved she could finally go home to Grandpa and be at peace.
Grandma Bev, was not my Grandmother. She was Mountain Man’s grandmother. I did, however, get lucky enough to be in her presence for a few years before she passed. She was the ultimate grandma. Happy, sweet, kind, never judging, never needing more than what she had. She loved her family very much and adored her grandchildren. I remember the first time I met her. It was Thanksgiving and the first time I met all of Mountain Man’s family. She was so nice and welcoming to this new stranger spending Thanksgiving at their table. Hell, the whole family was very kind and gracious to me… and has been ever since. Did I mention I love Mountain Man’s family??? Yeah, they’re pretty great. They come in 2nd only to my own. This last Christmas up at the mountain, she, MM’s mom, and I sat around and gorged ourselves on cookies, cheese, crackers, veggies and anything else in arms reach. It was nice to not stand on ceremony and be able to just be ourselves. Grandma Bev just had that way of making you feel welcome, no matter what. She even gave me a lovely super soft fleece throw blanket that I use all the time.
She passed suddenly this January of a stroke. No one was prepared for it. Seeing such sadness in the family members at the hospital only confirmed that she was immensely loved and honored by her family. Over the following weeks, I had the privilege of meeting many of the extended family which enhanced my love for MM’s clan. It was bitter sweet to lose this lovely gem of a woman and yet get to spend some time with the whole family. I’m just glad I got to know her for a brief moment. She was one of those rare people in the world that makes you a better person without even trying.
Recently the family sold her home and had to pack up and clean out all of her stuff…. And boy did she have stuff!! Grandma Bev was a knick knack kind of gal! Everywhere you looked in her home there were a million things to see! I reminded me of an antique store where every little space has something of meaning or memory. We received a few memoirs of hers for our house; a crystal serving bowl, coffee cups, blankets, and some flower pots… well you know how I love my flowers! The pots are so not my style; white and purpley and everything grandma. But they’re Bevs and that makes it awesome! I asked MM what color flowers I should get to which he instantly replied “Pink.” I grimaced as pink is so not my color. I’m a tomboy and therefore reject all pink things on principle…. But it’s Bev! So once again it becomes better than ok. I set out to buy flowers in the only color I often avoid…. When I took a step back and looked at my handy work, I think she would have liked it. MM was very happy with the finished product. And I’ve never liked something so pink, purpley, and girly in my life! And I really really like it! It’s like a little piece of her lives here now.
To all of you out there that still have living Grandparents; tell them you love them, ask them about the old days and really listen to the stories, be thankful for the time you have with them, and honor their love.