Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grandma Hazel

This is the eulogy I delivered for my Grandmother yesterday. I wasn't the only one to speak kind words and my Aunt Kitty and Uncle Mike really put together a service as beautiful as my Grandmother. I wish I could say my gorgeous children sat quietly during the service but no, my dear husband ended up taking them to McDonald's.  The were the best dressed family there. And I am eternally gratefully to Erik for going beyond the call of husband and father yesterday, and just being a completely awesome and patient person. I also delivered this eulogy wearing my husband's right contact lens instead of my own, just to add some extra challenge to the whole public speaking tension.

There are several things that will always remind me of my Grandmother: the status of poodles, and Cadillacs. The luxury of perfume, and Cashmere sweaters. Grandma was always perfectly put together, her dogs were groomed, her house spotless, and she smelled wonderful and felt so soft. She was by far the most glamorous person I have ever met. Grandma Hazel could wear white slacks and gold sandals to a BBQ and stay stain free. My girl cousins and I would love to open her bathroom drawers and stare mesmerized at all the lipsticks and lotions.

But she didn't always have access to these conditions. There is no status in migrating to California during the Depression. No luxury in sleeping under a bridge ( pictured above is the 7th Street bridge my Grandmother slept underneath, which is still located in Modesto, Ca.)  with your siblings. There is nothing clean about having 6 kids of your own.  And there will never be any glamour in outliving one of your own sons.

The beauty and order Grandma surrounded herself was much deserved. Both her and Grandpa Bill worked hard to build their life. They were excellent role models for hard work and learning new skills. Grandma Hazel didn't learn to play the piano and do ceramics until later in life. And Grandpa was always reading and educating himself.

And even though Grandma loved her family unconditionally, that doesn't mean occasionally she wouldn't try to change you. Us grand kids learned early on not to mention if we were feeling under the weather. Grandma would take this opportunity to pump us full of vitamins or make you drink some strange herbal concoction. She wouldn't mind performing minor surgery on our dirty feet to get out a splinter or rubbing Vitamin E oil on some mystery rash. She was an excellent nurse but wasn't afraid to experiment on us either.

I know my Grandma Hazel loved me. She gave me tons of hugs and kisses and spoiled me rotten. But I am pretty sure she thought my hair was out robbing liquor stores at night. I worshipped her so much I really didn't mind the experiments she attempted on my unruly hair. My mom would leave me at Grandma's house and she would be instantly washing and conditioning my hair in the kitchen sink. It was like a spa day. I didn't mind the crazy hair cuts, I didn't mind the olive oil and the beer rinse didn't bother me at all. It was the homemade mayonnaise I objected to. I smelled like a bologna sandwich for 2 days!

I wasn't the only grandchild, my brothers and my cousins were always at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Often for days at a time. And they played with us. Grandma would play on the piano with us, take us to parks, bowling, shopping and dye Easter eggs with us. Grandpa played cards with us,played pool with us, and let us follow him around the garden, and read all of his books. We were never bored and felt safe and loved. All of us running around the backyard, sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags and crowded around the kitchen or patio table.

Over the years family, just like friends, drift apart. I am so grateful for the memories my grandparents gave me and my cousins. And now that I have kids of my own I realize it's not that easy to organize family gatherings or reunions. I do want to offer my kids the same positive experience that we all had. I know that Grandma would want today to be more of a happy reflection and celebration of life. A chance for everyone to re-connect, to forget any differences, and to be loving role models for our new family members.

One day I was out to lunch with Grandma and she told me there wasn't a lot of love and affection in her childhood home. And as an adult she went to visit her brother Clarence at his home one day. Clarence walked up to her and hugged her. She was very surprised, but she said it felt so good to her that she hugged him back. She told me to remember to hug people and tell them that you love them otherwise they may never know how you feel.

I found an Irish Blessing perfect for the wife of a roofer.

May the roof above us never fall in.

And may the friends gathered below it never fall out.

End of eulogy.

I asked a dear friend who currently lives in Stanislaus County if she knew of any non-religious type organizations that help homeless children.  Modesto, where my Grandmother migrated to as a homeless child is in Stanislaus County, and my Grandma Hazel was never strongly religious. |My friend Daphne found a couple of places. Thank you so much Daphne that really means a lot to me.

Hutton House


Me, my mom Louise, Grandma Hazel and my daughter Rebekah Hazel. R.I.P. Grandma nobody will ever be as beautiful as you.


patti said...

Oh Charlotte! What a wonderful remembrance of your grandmother. May she rest in peace and may you and yours cherish her memory forever.

Lisa said...

That was so beautiful. For the first time in my life I am actually looking forward to being a grandmother. Thank you for sharing the special words.

Charlotte said...

Thank you Patti!! Lisa I think I left a comment on your blog saying congrats on becoming a grandma but now that I see your pic I see that was a bad thing to say. Thx for coming over here to visit! You don't look like a Grandma, I just thought you were becoming one not just looking forward to being one. Ha ha.