Friday, February 18, 2005

Gladys Delynne Light

She would have been 84 today, but she died last April 29. This is what I said at her funeral:

Gladys Light was my grandmother, and a consistent ray of light throughout my 30 years on this Earth. In my opinion, she was nothing less than a saint. As such a positive influence, my thoughts and feelings for her are innumerable... so these are but a few of the things that occur to me when I think of her. They are by no means all of the things. And, yes, more than one of them is in some way about her cooking.

The soft, papery thinness of her skin.

Her many different laughs and her ability to laugh at herself.

Working crossword puzzles with her. She'd do as much as she could and then hand it to me with an exasperated sigh and say, "Oh finish it Steve." She was one of the few people allowed to call me Steve and not Stephen.

One piece of advice she gave me many, many times:"Take 2, they're small," she would say as she sometimes passed me the biscuits and sometimes just went ahead and put 2 on my plate.

Everything else she taught me by example, by the way she lived her life. Whether it was how to make a marriage last. And last and last and last for 60 amazing years. Or how to love your family without fail.

When I'd take my last bite of lunch and she'd go, "Your plate is empty. Why don't you let me put something on it?" and even though I was really full and I knew there was still dessert to come, I'd let her do it because 1) it was some of the best home cooking ever, and 2) because I thought somehow I'd let her down if I didn't. And this would be after she'd made sure everybody else had a full plate while she would have a few bites of this and that. "Grandma aren't you going to eat?" "Oh, I snacked while I was cooking."

Playing gin rummy and giving me some haughty but playful indignation after I'd gone out with a really good hand and she was still holding everything

The shape of her mouth and the voice that came out of it.

How as a young boy I used to hate to leave the Farm so much that I would cry all the way to Henderson.

I don't want to say my grandmother was a bad driver, but the rush of adrenaline I got riding in the car with her outdid many a rollercoaster.

How her scrambled eggs were thick with many layers.

That when it came to family history, her mind held more information than the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Fishing in the vast green waters of Lake Overton, always dreaming and talking of pulling in the "big one" and then remembering you were at Lake Overton and a 4 inch perch was the big one.

Watching Saturday Night Live with her and the awkward embarrassment I always felt whenever a somewhat risqué skit would come on.

The way she smelled.

Making sure Papa had Cool Whip for his dessert.

The sound and rhythm of her footsteps in another room.

Four kids running around in superhero underwear without a care in the world.

Eating cereal in a juice cup at night.

Sitting on the front porch, rocking in those rocking chairs as the sun goes down and the colors in the sky change. Hearing a big truck come down the road and get louder and louder, following the sound behind the treeline with your eyes until it roars past the stop sign at the end of Red Level Loop. And you're talking with her about something or she's telling you a story about somebody and it doesn't matter what it is because you're with her and she's the one telling it.

That we don't get to choose the families into which we're born. And I was lucky enough to have hit the jackpot and been born into hers. That I may be an only child but I have 6 cousins whom I love as brothers and sisters.

And finally, when it would be my first night up for a visit and we'd be done watching David Letterman or Seinfeld or Conan or whatever. Papa and anybody else who was there would have gone to bed sometime earlier and she may have dozed off her in chair for a couple of minutes already. As I'd come out of the bathroom from brushing my teeth, she would say, "I'm glad you're here," and I'd say, "Me too, Grandma." Then we'd kiss each other good night and she'd pat me on the cheek and say, "You're a fine boy." And I've yet to receive a greater compliment.

May God bless and keep Saint Gladys until we meet again.


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