Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grandest of Them All

A light went out in this world on Sunday, December 28th when my dear sweet grandmother, Geneva Libersat Theall, passed. While we all try to find comfort in the loss of a beautiful and lively soul, we've been reminded of lovely happy memories. She was a spitfire and a joy to be around, one we will all surely miss.

In trying to get her affairs in place, I remembered a paper I wrote seven years ago for a Public Speaking course. We were assigned to write a tribute speech about someone we admired. Well, I went to the first person I generally think of honoring in my life, my grandma. She's a special lady, wise and knowing, with a good sense of humor.

She could bring people together during any situation like the time she started a poker game during a layover at the airport. No family event was complete without a roaring round of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and every birthday you got a phone call with her singing "Happy Birthday" just to you.

Anyway, I wrote a tribute speech just for my grandmother. I had to dig through the garage to unearth the old laptop and hope and pray that the paper still existed. Luckily for me, I found exactly what I was looking for.

Just for Geneva, Grandma Extraordinaire

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt pegged the women of my family. My mother, my aunts and my sister seem to share the same characteristic of unfailing strength, especially when confronted with a difficult situation. I can’t neglect to mention the amount of love, creativity and positive outlook that flows through each of these women as well. I see these as family traits passed down to younger generations, but the source of it all, I believe, comes from the strongest link of our family, my grandmother. My grandmother, Geneva, is the most positive, caring, creative and strong woman I have ever met and I don’t even think she realizes it.
            After spending five minutes with my grandmother you would immediately understand why she was a first grade teacher for 39 years. Her beautiful smile, bubbly personality and ever-lasting positive outlook on life is perfect for the classroom. She is known in our family for waking us up with a song every morning. Even every day activities like cleaning up or driving to the grocery store has an equally appropriate tune as well. No job is too great or too important that it can’t have its own theme song; to her way of looking at it, that musical ditty only makes the work more fun for everyone, and she’s right. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”  is her classic morning wake-up. She’s always looking to learn something new and keep up with today’s new technology. Take the computer for instance: Grandma can successfully check her email and look up all on her own now. It only took 3 months to teach her how to unlock her cell phone or send a picture without taking 63 shots of herself instead of her target. I’ve even taught her how to send text messages using T9 word—the next task now is teaching her how to make a smiley face and boy, is she excited about that!
When the chips are down no one can pick you up like Grandma. It’s something about the way she encloses her arms around you for that “welcome back” hug when you visit her. Maybe it’s the way she pats your hand and say’s “Chere, baby!” that makes all seem right in the world. Either way my grandmother comforts like no one else! Perhaps she’s had enough practice raising four children and working with kids for almost a half century. She is fearless when it comes to tears. Distance between us makes it hard to get that Grandma-hug in, but she embraces the challenge and comforts us through a simple “I love you” card or offers a comforting word over the phone. No amount of space can keep Grandma from sending her love!
Need help with any project at all? She’ll be there with bells on ready to help in any way she can. She’s a master with projects, too. I’m a poster project princess because of my Grandmother, AKA the Queen of Arts-&-Crafts.  My grandfather was a professor at Texas Tech making both my grandparents advocates for education, but they came to understand that a teacher’s salary doesn’t pay for too much. My grandmother wanted her kids to have the best she could provide, so she used whatever she had to work with. She taught her daughters how to sew and embroider all their clothes, baked goods were used for gifts at the holidays and summer long camping trips were taken as a family vacation and a learning experience. My grandmother taught me how to make a backyard into a jungle full of adventure. She showed me the secret to drawing a perfectly proportioned person and how doodles can turn any school supplies into a work of art. She let me take her childhood stories and toys and turn her house into a time machine. I am never bored when in the presence of my grandmother; she is always full of life and full of fun.
            When I think of my Grandmother so many stories of perseverance and strength come to mind, it’s often hard to pick just one. I think of the strength it took for her five year old self to donate her favorite green tricycle for the cause during WWII. I think of the strength it took to pack up her new family and move to the strange town of Lubbock, making her the first in her family of thirteen generations to ever leave Louisiana. I think of the strength she found as she continues on with her life since the passing of my grandfather, almost 20 years ago. My grandmother has always been an active person, constantly moving and playing with her family. I think of the new challenges she’s facing as she battles against her biggest hurdle yet, rheumatoid arthritis. But she is a determined woman, rising to the challenge and beating the odds. No physical condition has kept her from hopping on a plane to visit her seven grandchildren, see them graduate, dance, run track, get married or perform in some way. She has driven to Mount Rushmore and visited her family roots in Nova Scotia. There’s the challenge of being an older person being in a young person’s world. She is determined to try new things and refuses to surrender to old age. The use of a cane and replacement of teeth has yet to slow her down—though we occasionally have to back-track to airports, video stores and parking lots looking for said teeth and cane, she continues on with life as if nothing is different. The woman is resilient!
            Whether she realizes it or not, my grandmother has passed on many wonderful qualities to her own children who have passed them on to theirs. By watching these role models and learning from the best, I hope to pass these same qualities to my children some day. I look up to my grandmother because she is her caring, positive, creative and strong—to me, the ingredients that make her one of my biggest heroes.
 It might be a little out of date--Grandma had a "Merry Walker" to roll her along, no more cane, and she texted beautifully with her iPhone. Emojis decorated every text followed by a concluding "over and out" or "roger that!" Getting a hug from her was easier since that she lived down the street from my parents and every Sunday in town was dedicated to visiting Grandma for her pill packs, coffee prep, and calendar change. Outdated paper or not, I'm glad I could be reminded of her again.
I cherish every hug, every adventure, and all the time I had with my Grandma.
Je t'aime beaucoup tout mon coeur, Grandma. I miss you so.

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