Monday, July 11, 2016

My Grandma Gilthvedt

Christmas Eve, 1982

A week ago this morning, on the 4th of July, I woke up on the bench beside my grandma's hospital bed, and a few short hours later she went to heaven. Her passing was unexpected, and the events of this last week all seemed to me like they took place in a thick fog; it was a lot of emotion to process in a hurry. My grandma left quite an impression on my life.

It was late last Sunday night, July 3rd, that I was replaying memories of my childhood time spent with her, and something cool came to mind. Awhile back, I had written a little story about one of our trips together, and that trip had taken place 25 years ago to the day - in 1991. This was a  little of it...

My dad's side of the family is from Minnesota; my grandma grew up there as the oldest child with 5 younger brothers, and my grandpa as the only brother with 9 sisters. When I was 15, I travelled with them to their home state, along with my brother Trevor (9) and cousin Shane (11). For the first half of our trip, a doctor and his wife from CA accompanied us on our journey. We must have been a sight...4 adults, 3 kids, and a week's worth of luggage sailing across the Land of 10,000 Lakes in our boat of a rental car, a Mercury Grand Marquis. When I first spotted the car in the rental lot, it was twice the length of any other vehicle in sight; I just knew it had to be 50 feet long, and I was mortified. But I quickly forgot the humiliation of being seen in the land yacht, as the constant arguing of my brother and cousin ensued almost immediately, and didn't let up again until they were separated to their own homes upon our return. And while the fighting of the young cousins was annoying, the sight of thousands of squashed mosquitoes on every interior window of that car did a good job of distracting me too. If you've travelled to northern Minnesota in July, you'll know what I'm talking about. Add the sweat of seven human bodies, excessive carbon dioxide produced in that overstuffed car, and black interior - we were a slow-moving mosquito magnet.  

...Most of the time spent on that trip, I couldn't wait for it to be over.  We were either on the road covering ground at a snail-pace, or stopping at ANOTHER family reunion. At some point, I wondered to myself if we were just making random stops at EVERY reunion we passed, regardless of whether they were our family or not, to grab another plate of macaroni salad because the backseat battling cousins were hungry again. I think there were 2 other stops in total - one at what we quickly named "world's smallest Dairy Queen", and the other in the middle of nowhere so I could make a pit stop in the ditch and welcome another hundred or so mosquitoes into the car in the split second the door was open.

Looking back, I'm so thankful for that trip; for having grandparents who were so excited to share their childhood memories with us - not just by telling stories but taking us there in person. It was important to them that we learn the history of our family. And not long after we arrived home, we began laughing over all the events, and we still do to this day. It was a road trip to be remembered.

That Minnesota trip was one of many for my grandma and I. She took me to many places, and helped fill my childhood with good memories. She wanted to make sure she was the first to buy me a virgin strawberry daiquiri as a little girl, and the first to buy me the real thing on my 21st birthday. Hoping to bring some culture into my life, she took me to plays - where I'd promptly fall asleep and snooze through the whole thing. She introduced me to room service and Bloomingdales, but her stories of life growing up as a poor farm girl were always close at hand. She wrote my first paycheck. She took me to ice cream at Big Scoop, often, and let me pick whatever I wanted.  In junior high, my dad would drop me off at her house in the mornings, and I would visit with her for a half hour until she drove me to school - I can still see her looking into a mirror on her kitchen table and smell the Oil of Olay she'd spread nice and thick before putting on her makeup as we talked. I knew she always wanted to give me the best, but at the same time, I always wanted to give her mine. She was not a soft lady, but I always felt like I understood her - the world saw a tough woman; I saw a loving one, and appreciated her strength.  She nicknamed me Brookeroosky, the source of the ROOSKY license plate that's still with me today. Her Lutheran faith was so very important, and seeing her family at church on Sundays was a big deal. She had high expectations of everyone (most of all, herself), and I always took that to mean she knew I could accomplish anything. She was incredibly proud of her family, and I never realized that more than at her memorial service this weekend when many of her friends that I hadn't seen in years were all up to date on my life.

The bond between a grandparent and grandchild is one of the best things in this life. I've been blessed to have that closeness with all 4 of mine. My grandma will be deeply missed, but the impact of her life forever changed mine, and the joy of my time with her will always outweigh the sadness that it's now come to an end. If heaven didn't have "wine time" before, it does now (this goes without explanation for anyone who knew her), and I'll get to see her there someday. :)