Monday, August 30, 2010

History Part One - Grandma

Over the past week I have been digging through my entire house looking for old (but ridiculously important) documents. While doing so I came across a bunch of stuff that really took me back a few years. Since I have moved so many times over my lifetime, I wanted to get this information someplace.... permanent, in case I lose the originals.

This first thing is very important to me. It's about my Grandma. It was about 6 or 7 years ago that she passed away and when she did, I was asked to prepare a fairly long 'talk' about her for her funeral.

When I got there and started talking, I made it about five minutes before I broke down crying like a wee baby. I spent the next fifteen minutes blubbering and stammering through my speech. Still, I am glad I was able to speak for her and about her - it meant a lot to me!

At the very end, I choked through a short poem I wrote about her. It isn't a great poem, but it's about a great lady. That kinda makes it great in its own way. So - without further adieu...


We have all come here today to show our deep respect and great love for Florence May Butterfield. I have been asked to speak on her behalf and I am honored. I only hope I have found the right words to display the love that I and everyone here has to feel for her.

She was our historian, our diplomat, our healer, our friend, our counselor, our accountant and most of all my grammy. She touched all of our lives with her kindness compassion and strength. She also played a mean game of solitaire and kicked most of our butts at cribbage. Except for Kenny, who grammy was very sure cheated morning noon and night.

She was also a packrat... aren't we all? You name it and she collected it. Most of the time she collected things more for us than for herself. She took these collections quite seriously and really knew her stuff, no matter who it was for. Who knew more about stamps than grammy? Who knew more about coins? She even shared in our interests and supported our hobbies. She shared Ellen's love of carousels. She shared Kenny's love of knives.

Well I am happy to say that I was able to share one of my hobbies and passions with grandma. I was able to introduce her to the world of computers. A world that, though foreign, she was intrigue with and sought to learn everything she could. She discovered the world of internet and e-mail and suddenly loved ones far away could send her cards and letters instantly. This consisted mostly of my mom sending her jokes and stories that grammy called junk, but there was always some piece of mail in there that said "I love you" from her family abroad. Looking at all of her hobbies, I am sure that there is nothing out there that she couldn't master and understand. I am certain of it.

I will speak now of her great strength. A strength that fought off cancer for over seven years. A strength that kicked the hardest habit there is to kick - smoking! How many here have tried to quit? Ahhhh, then you know what I mean by strength. A strength that kept the family together. A strength that she displayed at all times.... whether she felt it or not. I am not sure that I have ever met a stronger person in my life. I think my mom tries really hard to follow in my grandma's footsteps. And I have to say that she does a pretty darn good job.

She also battled against diabetes and won! She fought that battle a good many years now and never seemed intimidated by it. It was just one more chore that needed to be completed every day. A chore, like all of the other chores, that she did with a smile.

Ellen told me recently that grammy was the reason she came back here, back to Salt Lake City. I get the feeling that even though Ellen came to make sure grammy was doing good, that grammy was every bit as good for Ellen as Ellen was for grammy. Call it a hunch.

She also had the great strength it took to tame a fierce hound named Poopy, scourge of the grandchildren (myself included). If you doubt for one second what kind of fortitude it took to keep that howling hound of death in line, she must have never savagely mauled you!

Who who was there to heal the heinous wounds inflicted on Poopy's prey? You guessed it - grammy.

As a side note it should be said that I don't think that Poopy had a mean bone in her. I am certain she was just misunderstood.

It is only recently, as I am old enough to want to know everything about our family that I started asking grammy about our family history. About where she grew up, how she grew up and who she grew up with. With a twinkle in her eyes she would tell me all about her youth. She still remembers the address she lived at as a child. She remembers then auntie that she would go over to every day after school. The auntie that always displayed great kindness and love.

She remembers how she got a library card and checked out as many books as she could and would rush to return them the very next day. She clearly recalled the surprised look on the librarian's face when so many books came back, read, the next day.

The librarian would say "You can keep these until you read them you know!" Grammy would just smile and say "I know." Pretty smart kid eh? And she DID read them all. That's the kicker. How she found the time I will never know.

She told me of her friends. She has shown me the pictures. All I had to do was ask and she took me there willingly. So we went there together, because I, too, was willing to go.

I have never met anyone with such a vivid recall of their youth as she had. An through her memories to my memories and the memories of others she has kept our family's past. I tell you, in turn, so that we may all remember.

This was taken from a recent letter my mom sent to me; "She used to like to take you for rides in her Subaru and let you sit in the front all strapped into the seat-belt so tight that I would always try to find a reason to loosen it. She would always say I am going shopping with my grandbaby, and he is riding up here so I can see him smile when I sing silly songs." It is said that getting there is half the fun, well with grandma I can tell you that it was well over half the fun!

Not too long ago I was finally able to take her for a spin in my car. I didn't sing any silly songs, but I played really bad music for her. I hope that counts. Now my car is no Subaru, but she seemed to like it well enough. It all started when I offered to take her to run a few errands on a Saturday. Well, we spent far longer than needed to get to where we were going, but that was ok in my book. We even stopped by Weinerschnitzel for a chili cheese dog or two. We talked and talked and made a mess and talked some more. I think she was more glad to have a good old fashioned non diet Dr Pepper more than anything, but once again - just a hunch.

While we were there wishing that they had given us even ONE napkin between us and eating, some guy came over and asked us if we knew how to get someplace. I had no clue, of course, but grammy somehow managed to give the guy detailed instructions as to how to get to his destination. (and also managed not to spill the aforementioned Dr Pepper while gesturing this way and that!) I asked her how the heck she knew that, but I think she was having too much fun playing the mysterious wise woman to reply. I suspect it may be that she has seen more of the city than most of us will ever be able to. Either way, I think that was the best chili-cheese dog I have ever had.

Grandma has also been my quality control person. She likes to meet my girlfriends and get a feel for what kind of person they are. She was an excellent judge of character and her suggestions and advice about them was never ignored. Needless to say that all of my girlfriends thought she was the best. That just shows me that they have good taste. (this became the Grandma test!) She always seemed to see something in them that would make or break them. I only wish I had that wisdom now, I bet we all do.

Come to think of it, I think I owe many of my successful dates to grammy. I can't think of all of the times I have called her in a pinch and said "Grandma, I need a cool recipe for a romantic dinner - FAST! Oh, and make it something I can't mess up too badly!". She was a meeeeeeeeeeeeeean cook that really seemed to know what was needed for every situation. And though Carl was the chef of the family, I bet he owes much of that to grammy's recipes and cooking tips. Not that I would ever squeal on grammy by saying that she ever splurged on her diet and had something tasty. Wild horses couldn't drag that out of me!

My mom made a request of me when she heard that I was doing this; try to keep things focused on the mellow and positive. She asked me this because that is what grandma believed in. She would not want us to dwell on her passing, she would want us to keep our chins held high and keep a positive outlook. If one woman could act as the glue for a family and balm for all of our souls then we must in turn do our part and smile when we think of her. Lift the sadness from your hearts and fill it with joy and love. Open your arms to your brothers and sisters and take them in. Not only did grandma show us this road, but she walked us halfway down it. It's only natural that she would want us to keep walking it. I don't remember that she ever said the road would be an easy one, she only ever said that it would be worth it.

Actually I am pretty sure she BUILT that road. No wonder she was able to show us the path so readily.

Many of you may not know that she was pretty dang hip to today's trends. She seemed to like some of my music quite a bit. She had her favorites though. I'd like to show you one. This is a song that she knew word for word and would sing all the time around the house. This is the crash test dummies doing a little ditty called 'God Shuffled His Feet'. I hope you like it.

[we played this song, while I tried to regain control of myself..]

I have so many things that I wanted to say that there is simply not enough time or words to say them all. So I will try this tack instead. This is a poem that I wrote for her.

My Grandmother, My friend

One powerful woman, one passionate life.
A warm loving friend and a dutiful wife.
My grandmother my friend loved by all till the end.
All the lessons you taught me, all the bones you helped mend.
How can we now repay all the kindness you've shown?
How can I show you how much I have grown?
How can we prove that your words lit the sun?
How do we thank you for all that you've done?
How can we show you how much we care.. can this be done without you there?
I, for one, will never forget you then..
You will live on forever, my grandmother, my friend.

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