Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Books and Eulogies ...

I've been reading the best book the week. It's called the Memory Keeper's Daughter. On the weekend I really wanted a good book to read. I was tired of reading chick lit (love it, but needed a break). I have been thinking about reading this for awhile, so I decided to pick it up.
It's a little bleak, I warn you. But, it's amazingly good. I'm loving it. Ironically my sister started reading it the same day. However, she reads at a very different pace than me, so while I am almost done and would love to say more about it, I will not ruin it for her.
Anyway, if you're looking for a good read, you should pick this up. (If you are my friend, yes, you can borrow it. Let me know.)

And, on another note... I've been thinking about posting this for awhile. It's the eulogy that I said at my Grandma's funeral. It's not sad. Don't worry. I was driving home with my mom from a parenting seminar tonight and we were talking a bit about my Grandma. And, I realized that I wanted to share some of her. So ... voila.


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One of my favourite books is The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies.

When I read this book it struck me how much this term could be used to refer to my Grandma, Betty Jones.

The term fifth business refers to the main character in the book and has its roots in the opera.

The definition of the Fifth Business is a person who has no opposite: the odd man out—neither heroine nor her lover, rival nor villain—yet essential to the plot.

This is a role that Grandma has always played in my life – and the life of my sister and cousins. She never was the key player; she left that first to our parents and later to our partners. But she has always been essential to the plot … otherwise known as our lives.

For me it would be hard to talk about Grandma without also talking about Grandpa who passed away five years ago. When I think about Grandma, so many of the pictures that come to my mind are pictures of her with Grandpa.

Grandma and Grandpa were, quite simply, amazing grandparents. They loved all of their grandchildren to pieces. Going to 389 Sutherland Drive for visits wasn’t just something we did at Christmas and Easter. It was almost a weekly occurrence. Grandma would always have something made for dinner – it varied between things like ham or meatloaf or lasagna, but we could always expect to have peas, ginger ale, diet coke and vanilla ice cream. Always.

And we made their home like our second home. We would play red light green light outside in the summer and we would play Atari in the basement in the winter. Looking back I feel like we took the comfort for granted. We’d fling ourselves on the couch with a can of diet coke. Or we’d open up the Russell Stover Chocolates without a second thought.

As I said before, Grandma’s role in our lives was unique. She never played an aggressive role, but she was always so important to our lives.

Grandma was our cheerleader. She was also an amazing listener. And she was a great role model. I often see my parents and Barry and Bonnie turning into the grandparents that Russ and Betty were.

I learned a lot from Grandma. The first thing that comes to my mind about grandma was bravery. I’m not sure that this would be the first thing to come to mind for everyone, but to me this was a biggie.

When I was about 8 Grandpa had an operation. He had to stay in the hospital at night, and we had spent the evening with Grandma. As we were leaving I asked her what she was doing that night. She told me that she was watching Murder She Wrote and then reading a mystery book in bed.

As a child who was afraid of the dark, I marveled at her courage.

This is also a woman who raised three children – spending a lot of time alone while her husband traveled. A woman who as a new bride moved to a different country to follow her husband, and a woman who later in life watched one son play football, a daughter live first in Japan and then the Philippines, and another son go through major surgery.

If that’s not bravery, I don’t know what is.

Another trait about grandma was her amazing sense of humour. She knew how to laugh at herself. After leaving Buffalo she never lost certain words such as Davenport, which means couch, ice box, which means fridge, and WARSHroom which is the bathroom. As we laughed at these words, Grandma laughed right along with us.

She also laughed about her backseat driving. Whenever we went anywhere with Grandma and Grandpa we would sit patiently as Grandma would shout “Russ Russ” constantly for the entire car ride. She would say that she was a much better backseat driver than regular driver. It turns out that I inherited her driving skills because it took me 5 driving tests to finally pass.

Before I passed my final test she said to me that if I ever DID pass she would happily go for a ride and not say a word.

You know what? She was one of my very first passengers. We went for a nice drive around Leaside. She sat quietly, didn’t say a word, didn’t even comment when we hit a few cubs and gave me a hug when she got out of the car. She went on many car rides with me after that. She always bit her tongue and often closed her eyes pretending to nap while I drove...

As I said before – my grandmother was a very brave person.

But, above all she was loving.

What I will miss the most about Grandma is the huge smile that lit up her face whenever she saw one of us grandchildren and later one of her great grandchildren enter the room.

On Sunday we had planned to go visit her. I’m sad because we never got the opportunity. Instead my sister and I and our families spent the afternoon in a local park, playing with our children. The day was lovely, out children were playing and having a great time, and we were enjoying each other’s company.

That same day Lisa, my cousin, was enjoying her first Mother’s Day.

I said to Lisa last night that I wish I could have had the opportunity to say goodbye. But, I realized, that for Grandma, knowing her grandchildren and great grandchildren were so happy on her last day on earth would have been the greatest gift we could have given her.

As I said before Grandma’s role in our lives was always a little bit in the shadows. She was happy to sit back and watch us grow and mature and become the people we are today.


And, so much of who I am, who we all are, is because of the role she played in our lives. Grandma will be dearly missed by all of us.

4 comments:

Haley-O said...

The eulogy is so touching and beautiful. What a wonderful tribute. :)
I hear The Memory Keeper's Daughter is sooo good. I don't know if I can do "bleak" right now. But, definitely one of these days I'll pick it up.

SciFi Dad said...

Thanks for sharing the eulogy, Laural. I appreciated being able to get to know your grandmother a little bit, even if only through your eyes.

Ellee said...

It's great to hear other people's recommendations.

AndreAnna said...

I read that book on vacation in October - what a great read!!!

I was touched by the characters on so many levels - it really was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

(I know I'm commenting on old posts but I'm just finding your blog now! So, hi!!)