The subject line is a little non-committal, I know. 3/21/2012 marks the 70th anniversary of my paternal grandparents, John and Inez. Both Grandma and Grandpa were very present in my life, but due to momnesia or time or the nature of memory, they present themselves to me more in terms of feelings than in a more concrete way.
When I try to remember how she looked, I remember certain things quite clearly, but I can only remember Grandma one way, and that’s the way that she looked to me as I was growing up. And while I’m certainly not the authority on how she did her makeup or anything else, this is how she appears to me, through the lens of my youth and admiration.
To me, she had a halo of perfectly white hair that seemed to defy gravity. It was springy and I always enjoyed touching it and trying to flatten it, much to her chagrin. It seemed to me that there was this beautiful wave in it where all the curls were perfectly coiffed in a protective veil of Aquanet. Grandma had a cute country girl’s freckled nose and round cheeks and she dusted both lightly with powder. I can never remember a wrinkle on her face, except those that crinkled at the corners of her eyes when she smiled. She had beautiful hazel eyes, a mix of green and light brown and grey, with flecks of gold. She penciled in her very light eyebrows and wore a shimmery charcoal eyeshadow. On her lips she wore a matte hot pink lipstick, tempered by several dabs with a tissue and multiple layers of powder.
She was not a glamorous woman in a ostentasious way, but I remember her with love, kindness and glamour. The woman who would do headstands on her birthday also had a wicked sense of humor, was at times sassy and, well, Grandpa used to complain about the callous on his stomach from her repeated slaps to his gut.
The way I remember Grandpa is a little more versatile. I remember him when he grew out a beard and a stately handlebar mustache for his town’s anniversary, but I also remember him smoothly shaven. He always had a full head of shiny white hair that he kept looking quite dapper. He had cool eyes and a nose that hooked down a bit. He was slender and fit but developed a rounding of his upper back in later years. He was handsome and looked the way you’d expect a respectable gentleman to look.
That’s my visual memory of Grandma and Grandpa, but they come into focus for me more in the feeling they evoke when I think about them. Good feelings. They loved God and their family and each other so much, it just showed. Even as a teenager, they were fun to be around and my bestie, Heather, and I would go to their house in the summertime some evenings to play euchre or dominoes.
As their grandchild, with a generation between us and my youthful idealism, it all seemed so uncomplicated. Since then I’ve learned that what John and Inez made look easy requires not only the obvious things (love, commitment, common beliefs) but also work. When you love your work, you do it freely with passion and exuberance, even though it still requires effort. Though some of the details are fuzzy for me, their love for each other is crystal clear.
So Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa! We love you!