My great-grandmother, who liked for us to call her “GG”, was a tough but proper lady. She would give you love pats that would knock the air out of you as she squeezed you tight, and slap your bare thigh to emphasize a point. She always hosted Christmas Day brunch at her house, and would have the tables set for weeks ahead of time. I think I inherited my obsession with etiquette books from her.
She liked to get out her photo albums and show us pictures of our mother and aunts and uncles. If any family member of hers appeared in the local paper, she would cut it out and save it there. This included police reports of speeding tickets given to my aunts–one, in a cheerleading uniform, racing to a football game, another speeding up the hill because, according to her, if she didn’t go fast enough her car wouldn’t make it.
When she was dying, at age 92, she could barely talk. Her mouth was very dry. We would use a cotton swab to rub a moisturizer on her lips, and help her to eat ice. Once, very near the end, I sat next to her on the bed as she drank some water. She choked and coughed, and water and phlegm dripped down her chin. I reached to wipe it with a Kleenex and this frail, dying woman smacked my hand away, took the tissue from me and did it herself. She was so proper and independent, even when she was almost unrecognizably weak.
I love her so much, and I miss her.
My Grandpa died when I was in high school, but my favorite memory of him happened when I was about 8 or 9. My grandparents had come to our house for my brother’s birthday party, and I wanted to go back with them to their house to stay the night. I asked Grandpa if I could bring my bicycle so we could ride to the creek (which he pronounced “crick”) near their house. He, as usual, obliged. He went to pick up my bicycle and put it in the trunk of his Lincoln Town Car when his pants fell right down around his ankles. My entire family was standing in our driveway rolling on the floor laughing as he finished loading my bicycle in his underwear. He was, of course, a good sport about it.
My best friend in OK was also a colleague with whom I collaborated on research. He was the most generous and giving person I had known. Difficulties in our collaboration strained our friendship and I withdrew. In our forties, I knew we had plenty of time to become close again. But we did not, as a swift illness consumed him. I am, now, the age he was when he died.
Most of the time when she would tell a funny story, she couldn’t actually finish because she couldn’t get words out between her fits of laughter. Because of cystic fibrosis and the damage it does to the lungs, she had a really raspy laugh even from a young age. So in the end, none of us really needed her to finish the stories in order to start giggling ourselves…her laugh was always the most effective part.
A nice April day several years back I took Grandma out to get her vitamins. No matter that research showed they were all worthless; Grandma swore to their potency.
Grandma always checked her receipts…but her eyesight wasn’t what it was. When I told her she wound up not being charged for one of the vitamins, she smiled, grabbed my arm, and made for the car.
That was the last time I ever walked with my Grandmother. A few weeks later she had a stroke and never walked again.
I would love to write about how she recovered and we spent more loving years together, but that’s not how it happened. What followed were months of deterioration and heartbreak for those who loved her.
The last time I saw her, she didn’t show any signs she knew I was there. To no longer be loved by the one who loved me the most has been my most painful loss.
Through it all, I kept the memory of that last time out with Grandma; that smile, that pull, arm-in-arm to the car. I have it, and I treasure it. Thank you Grandma, for all your love.
One holiday season, I was helping Grandmommy by putting ornaments on her Christmas tree. During this time, she always bought a real pine tree with sticky sap.
Anyways, she had left the room for a while, and I was successfully decorating the tree. Eventually, I filled the lower branches and needed to place ornaments near the top. Being a crafty child, I used the couch and chairs as stepping stools in order to reach the highest branches. However, reaching to place one ornament near the very top of the tree required me to lean off of my unofficial step stools. Once I put a little bit of my weight on the trunk of the tree, the whole thing toppled over.
I do not recall what broke or the mess I made because all I remember is Grandmommy running out of the hallway, past the grandfather clock and into the room. She made sure I was OK and asked me to explain what happened. After all this mischief, I received no punishment (probably why I can’t remember what all I broke).
She was such a loving and understanding person to not punish her grandson who was only trying to help her prepare for Christmas. Since I was never disciplined, there was no sulking. Instead, we focused on picking up the pieces and enjoying Christmas time together.
Besides having the pleasure of attending the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert with Ellen Jayne and George, my favorite memory is getting to share dancing moments at Ingrid’s Restaurant. She and George covered the dancefloor with smooth moves and a lot of smiles. George even coaxed my husband and I out on the dance floor to join them. Some other times I was honored to share moments with Ellen Jayne were family gatherings/celebrations. We watched fireworks together at Paige and Keegan’s home in Norman several times. EJ watched them and responded as though it was the first time she had seen them. She leaned against a very tall George and oohed and awed with great excitement. Ellen Jayne was a wonderful inspirational person! I will cherish her memories forever.
This video, Dancing on a Faluk, was when we were on an evening Faluk boat ride. It is an egyptian sailboat. That song is one that is a folksong which is sung all over Egypt cause we heard it everywhere we went.
This second video of Ellen Jayne in the Cairo Market was our last day in Egypt and we had gone to shop. She had just bought those little musical instruments to bring back as a gift to her grandchildren. She just broke out into playing them with our tour guide and dancing, people all around stopped what they were doing to watch. People even tried to give her money thinking that she was a street performer. As you know, Ellen Jayne was one of a kind.
You couldn’t be unhappy or have a bad day when in her presence or in earshot of her. Craig, Wyatt and I are so grateful that we have been so blessed to call your family, our family. We love you all so very much.
My first memories of Ellen Jayne start with being in the children’s choir at Crown Heights as a little girl and she was our director. She always had a smile as she tried to make us sound wonderful. And donT forgeT To enunciaT the T!!! I enjoyed our Christmas and Easter pageants as a youngster at Crown Heights with her.
As time went on I took voice lessons and managed to do well at the contests she took her students to. Even though I wasnt planning on majoring in music, she kept my interest as a high schooler, even though I was singing in Italian!
She was good friends with my parents, and I remember when we we lived in England in the mid 70s, Ellen Jayne, J Clyde and another church family came to visit us. There were lots of tours and laughter while everyone was visiting. Ever since that visit the favorite quote seemed to be If its Wednesday this must be Paris!
I am glad we kept up through the years on famly events. My last smile was 2 years ago my own children and I spent some time with her as she needed help to take some Christmas decorations down from the attic. After helping and visiting with her, she ran through her house trying to give all of us gifts of appreciation. Always smiling always sharing!