Tag Archives: grandmother

She Lived and She Was Loved

9 Apr

Today is April 9.  On this day in 1918, a baby was born.  She was named Dorothy June Patterson and she grew up to marry her high school sweetheart, who perished in WW2.  Eventually, she was introduced to another fella by the name of Edwin.  They were engaged after only six weeks and were married over 50 years.  Dorothy or “Dot” as she was called had two children–a girl and a boy.  She didn’t do anything extraordinary besides cooking, cleaning, taking care of her house, and loving those around her.  Society wouldn’t hail her as a hero, just another good person.

But she was extraordinary.  She could make the best potato salad and baked beans anyone ever tasted.  When one of her daughter’s friends needed clothing, she made it herself.  And when the grandchildren came, she would lavish attention on them.  She could fold little birds out of paper and play a good game of Old Maid with her granddaughter.

I’m proud to say that Dorothy June (Patterson) Landis is my grandmother.  She died on July 31, 2005, but if she was still alive, she would be 91.  I just wanted to remember her on this, her special day, to tell you all that she lived and that she was loved.

And she is loved and I miss her.  Although I bet the birthday cake in Heaven is way better than the stuff they make around here.  Have a good birthday with Jesus, Grammy!

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Life is Better with Lists

30 Jul
If I snorkel in Hawaii with sea turtles, I could do three things at once!  Lets hear for life goal multi-tasking!

If I snorkel in Hawaii with sea turtles, I could do three things at once! Let's hear for life goal multi-tasking!

Death has a way of making us appreciate life. Not our own deaths, of course, but the deaths of our loved ones. Today (July 31) marks the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death. The interesting thing about my grandmother is that she was so afraid to do things, like drive a car or “upset” someone. It seemed like the last few months of her life, she threw convention aside and just starting being herself. She started saying how she really felt about things. Some could chalk it up to dementia, and there was certainly an element of truth to that.

Yet it seemed like all of a sudden her world came alive and instead of wearing drab fabrics, she wore vibrant, colorful prints. Instead of worrying what people thought of her, she told others what she thought of them. It was a beautiful thing to see someone freed from her fears, especially her fear other others, and to actually enjoy life fully…though it was ever so brief. Not that she didn’t enjoy life before that, she just held back way too much.

Well, I don’t to hold back. A few weeks ago I blogged about the movie The Bucket List and Justin McRoberts’ song, “Done Livin'” (read post), and I’ve been trying to do things even when I’m uncomfortable. In fact, especially when I’m uncomfortable (but not too uncomfortable. I mean, we don’t want me to become a basket case). Therefore, in honor of my grandmother’s life, these are the things I want to do before I, uh, kick the bucket. Being 28, I hope to have many years to do them all.

1. Snorkeling. I totally want to do it.

2. Buy a horse. I wanted one when I was a little girl, and I want one now that I’m a big girl. I want a mini-goat, too.

3. Travel the world, specifically Alaska, California, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Australia, the U.K. (all of it), Greece, the Ukraine, Israel and anywhere in the continent of Africa. If you’re booking a trip, I’ll go anywhere, even New Jersey.

4. Learn to play guitar, violin, and mandolin. Yes, I like stringed instruments.

5. Sing “Send in the Clowns” on stage in front of an audience.

6. Publish a book.

7. Go on an extreme road trip across the United States and/or Canada (I’ve always thought a road trip would be the GREATEST honeymoon ever!)

8. Animals I want to see in the wild (and photograph): manatees, humpback whales, orcas, elephants, any kind of sea turtle, bears, moose (as long as it doesn’t charge me), horses, armadillos, those weird anoles running amok in Florida, and buffalo. I want to see more, of course, but these are the must-sees of my life.

9. Be a character actress in a local theater production (like Ursula the Sea Witch in the stage version of “The Little Mermaid” would be awesome).

10. Interview Philip Yancey (if you happen to know Philip Yancey, hook a girl up!)

11. Get a digital camera with D-SLR, preferably a Canon Rebel. Cool lenses would be an added bonus.

12. Buy a Mac.

I hope to have half of these things accomplished by the time I turn 30…just kidding! If I think of more things I need to do before I pass on, I’ll be sure to come back and update this list. Oh, and please let me know some of the things you want to do. And don’t say things like, “Raise my kids right.” Be wild, daring, and adventurous!

Tears In My Potato Salad

4 Jul

potato salad

I still contend that my grandmother was one of the best cooks that the world as ever seen, especially when it came to picnic food and desserts. Until my own venture into making potato salad yesterday and today (it was a two day event), I didn’t realize how hard she worked. And, really, all I did was peel the potatoes and taste the salad because Sarah is much more of a cook than me (yes, it has dawned on me that I should be able to cook to be a suitable candidate for marriage. However, I do know how to clean, decorate, take care of pets, and plant flowers…oh, and I’m very good with power tools. That should count for something, right?)

We called my mom in order to get my grandma’s potato salad recipe and like all my grandmother’s recipes, this one wasn’t terribly exact. “Add some vinegar” isn’t that helpful, you know? Finally, the potato salad was ready for a taste test…and it tasted nothing like Grammy’s. I called my mom fighting back fears because it just had to be like my grandmother’s because that’s what I remember being the best part about the Fourth of July. We added more vinegar and then salad dressing and onions and paprika and celery salt in various quantities, but it was futile. While our friend Julie loved the potato salad, I thought it tasted terrible.

July 31 will mark the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and in these three years I’ve come to realize it’s the little things that truly matter most–her potato salad on the Fourth of July, the little birds she folded out of paper, and the answers to the questions I never asked. I can’t make her potato salad; I don’t know how to fold those little birds; and I can’t ask those questions.

I know it’s just potato salad and such a thing shouldn’t make a person cry, but it does. Because it’s not potato salad; it’s something I can never ask my grandmother to show me how to make. I can’t make it for my family one day (if I ever learn how to cook) and say, “This is how my grandmother made it.” Today I missed my grandmother terribly, not just because of her potato salad, but because of what not having her potato salad means. They say that a loved one’s death gets easier with time; I think it just gets “normal”.

If anyone out there has a good recipe for potato salad that contains vinegar, salad dressing (the mayo alternative), and sour cream, please e-mail it to me at amy@backseatwriter.com or post it here for everyone to enjoy. Thanks!

Last Call

12 Dec

Last Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending a birthday party for a 90 year-old lady named Evelyn. Evelyn was my grandmother’s lifelong best friend. They met when they were in elementary school and continued their friendship until the day my grandmother died. Because of the close bond these ladies shared, my mom and I were invited to her surprise birthday party. Now the lady is half-deaf and completely blind–almost anywhere she shows up is a surprise to her.

It was held in the bar area of a fire hall, where I spotted the sign that’s pictured above. Believe me, there was no chance this party would last until 1:30 AM. Being as it was her birthday, I took Evelyn a present–a blue, handmade scarf (yes, I made it. Those of you who know me know well that I love to make and bless people with the gifts of scarves and other things I make). I explained in the card that I made a blue scarf just like that one for my grandmother, and I wanted her to have that scarf, because even though she couldn’t see it, I wanted her to feel its warmth and remember my grandmother’s love for her. I’m good with those sentimental thoughts, especially because I sincerely believe the things I say.

Today when I was having lunch with my mom, she pulled a card out of her purse addressed to me–a thank-you note from Evelyn. It reads:

“Amy…

I have no words to tell you how much I will cherish the scarf that you made for me. Thank you for coming to my party and making such a special gift. It will always be with me and your grandmother will always be in my heart.

Love,

Evelyn”

Ironically, I’ve been wondering if my existence matters, if the silly things I do like giving people scarves makes one bit of difference in the world. Then I get a card like this and realize, yes, they do. Silly things aren’t always so silly. Plus, this note is something I will cherish highly the rest of my life because I, too, carry my grandmother in my heart, and now I will carry Evelyn there as well.

I want to encourage you all to do that silly thing today…

*Make someone a scarf!

*Send an encouraging text message!

*Write an e-mail telling a friend how much he or she means to you!

*Smile at a stranger!

*Spend a little bit extra getting your loved one that really special Christmas gift!

And if you would, tell me about it. I love a good story.

Dorothy J. Landis was here.

1 Aug

Dorothy J. (Patterson) Landis aka “Grammy”, 1918-2005. Services to be held on Wednesday, August 3 at 9:30 a.m. at Knopp Funeral Home on Susquehanna St. in Allentown, PA. In lieu of flowers, donations are to be made to Dreams Come True. I love you, Grammy! I’ll see you on the other side! Posted by Picasa

The End is the Beginning

1 Aug

My grandmother died this morning at 11 a.m. For most of the day, I was happy, almost joyous, and at peace. I took care of my grandfather, my mom, and my stepfather. I made sure everyone else was okay and plastered a smile on my face. I do believe that God has given me the strength to make it through today. But now He’s given me the opportunity to mourn. I’m glad I can cry because it felt very alien to hold her icy hands less than half an hour after her spirit soared to God, and feeling nothing.

Her breathing had changed apparently and the nurses called my mom to summon the family to the hospital. Sarah and I quickly gathered our belongings, hopped in the car, and began racing to the hospital as fast as we could. I insisted on listening to Chris Rice. The song came to the last verse, “Fly to Jesus/Fly to Jesus/Fly to Jesus and live”. I saw a red-tailed hawk taking flight on the other side of the highway. Its wings were turned toward me and I marvelled at the brilliant flash of auburn as this bird seemed to be soaring to Jesus. A moment later, my cell phone rang as my mom tearfully told me that my grandmother was dead. I felt as prepared as one can be for such a tragedy.

There were touches of God’s mercy and grace throughout the past week. Even after I exploded into hot tears and shook my fist at Heaven, He was patient. I was awake the past week praying for Him to take her home, and He held me in His arms.

Even last night, my last time with her, was tender and sweet. I held her hands and sang to her, mostly songs about Heaven and God’s love. She squeezed my hand as if to tell me that she was listening. My last words to her were, “I love you, and if I don’t see you again on this earth, I’ll see you on the other side.” There is hope.

Saying Goodbye

29 Jul

My grandmother is dying, even though both of my grandparents have been on their death beds before, this is the real deal. She’s just slipping away and spends a lot of time sleeping. Please pray for quick passage. It’s literally killing my grandfather to see her suffer and he weeps frequently. Please pray for him as well…one of the hardest parts is seeing him cry because he never really showed emotion…

How am I doing? I’ve been really focused on making crafts for my craft show tomorrow and trying not to think about it. Sometimes it overwhelms me and I cry a lot or I cry when I talk to my mom or Sarah. I think I’m handling it pretty okay.

Yesterday, I went to see my grandmother by myself, I guess to say goodbye. I just sat there and cried and cried for the first 15 minutes. She would open and close her eyes and tell me not to cry. But I think she could tell how much I loved her (especially because I kept saying it every 30 seconds!) I told her that I would miss her so much. She told me that I was the joy of her life. We shared memories and it was a good time, but a weird conversation. She would talk for a minute or two, close her eyes for 4 minutes and then say something. She told my mom last night that we had a good time. We even laughed once or twice…. 🙂

One thing I would like to do for her is let her see Cassie (the dog) one last time. Unfortunately, the hospital only allows animals in the lobby. So, I think I might want to take her over on Sunday, so I might beg the nurses to let me take Cassie in for 5 minutes. If they don’t let me, I’m gonna see how the ground is outside her room and have Cassie “wave” at her through the window. I think she’d much rather pet the dog…but at least it’s something. It’s such a little thing and I feel stupid for asking, but pray that we can do this little thing for my grandma…if she’s still alive on Sunday. It sounds horrible to say it that way…but it’s reality.

Everyt time the phone rings, I don’t want to answer it because I’m afraid it’s going to be someone telling me that she’s passed. As much as I know she’s suffering, I don’t want to lose my grandma. But we have been assured of her hope in Christ and I told her that when she leaves this life she’ll be ushered into Jesus’ arms, and she smiled serenely. She seems to be at peace with death and knows we’ll be together again. It’s goodbye for a little while, but it’s still hard.

Here are lyrics to a Chris Rice song called “Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)” that’s offering me a lot of hope right now, especially the last stanza.

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

Grammy of Arcadia

2 May

My grandma was admitted to the Arcadia Unit today, a locked addition to the nursing home that houses those suffering with dementia. My mother described her tour of the building as though it were a utopian paradise with helpful nurses and doctors that cheerfully administered care to the patients in a prompt and professional manner. The truth was vastly different.

Sarah (my roommate) and I picked up my grandfather from his assisted living facility and took him to see my grandmother. A nurse’s aid was wheeling her back from dinner and she was screaming, “Let me see the doctor!” I had no clue what was going on, but soon found out that her sore heels had gotten worse. While it was true that her left heel was sore and wrapped in a bandage, her right foot appeared to be fine.

Still as we sat with her in her new room, her cries of agony engulfed us all. Confused and clueless, I called my mother on my cell phone. She told me to get a nurse and expected me to have an entire plan laid out for my grandmother’s foot treatment laid out. I don’t handle these issues! I’m not the power of attorney. Sometimes I feel like such a little girl.

My mother proved to be of little help. She did share that individuals with dementia often become agitated and disoriented when placed in a new environment. I know that my mother needs a break, but I cannot believe she still asked me to take my grandfather to the nursing home today. Why would you ask your emotionally unstable daughter to walk into a sure-to-be chaotic situation?

So I hung up with my mother and we dealt with the situation as best we could. Sarah summoned a nurse. The nurse offered my grandmother a pain pill, which she later accepted. But our problems were far from over. I explained my mother’s theory on why my grandmother was so irritable to Sarah in the hallway. Right in front of us stood a slightly unsteady elderly man who was fingering the top of his pants. I was afraid he was about ready to drop his drawers. Instead he put his hands together and shot a golf ball that only he could see down the corridor. “Wow! It’s a hole-in-one,” I commented, grateful for the momentary distraction. His face lit up with glee and his hands came near me. I crossed my arms in front of my chest half-afraid he would try to touch my breasts. Instead he patted me on the shoulder, and said something incoherent. He was clearly happy and quite proud of himself. Sarah and I exchanged confused, but amused looks, and went back into my grandmother’s room.

As usual, she told us strange stories comprised of nonsense—going out to dinner with my mother, telling us how the nurses forced her to fetch them coffee and donuts, and told a strange story about the “family” that lived in the birdhouse she spied in the courtyard of the facility. I started to fight back tears somewhere in the midst of the babble. Two confused women wandered up and down the hallway, briefly pausing each time they passed the room to blankly gape at us. Screams from an unhappy woman flooded the room from somewhere down the hallway.

I sobbed uncontrollably, hiding my face behind my hair. I pretended to be fascinated by something outside the window and turned from my company. I was jolted back to reality when my grandmother announced that she wanted to go to bed. She could not understand why she had to wait for the nurse to assist her. For half an hour, Sarah, my grandfather, and I had to use our creativity and brute force to keep her in her chair until a nurse’s aide came to assist. Despite the fact we pressed the buzzer alerting the staff we needed help, my grandfather’s trip into the hallway, and my follow-up trip to find a nurse, we were not helped until later. The nurse’s aide bluntly told us that she was on break. Later, we found out that we were supposed to wheel her to the nursing station so she could hang out beside the nurse’s desk with the rest of the dementia prisoners.

During her many attempts to escape from the wheelchair, I called my mom again as a play to distract my grandmother. Instead, my mother overreacted and decided that she needed to show up at the nursing home. As the nurse’s aide was getting my grandmother ready for bed under my close supervision, my mother and stepfather rushed into the room. However, after talking to the head nurse who placated their anxiety, they seemed to think that I was the one who overreacted.

My mother listened to me, but I don’t think she heard me. She said that I shouldn’t cause a fuss and walked out of my grandmother’s room. They took my grandfather back to his assisted living facility, and I have not heard a word from them since. I hate not being heard.

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