Saturday, June 2, 2012

GREAT grandparents

The fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005 were very tough times for my family.

In September of 2004, my beloved Grandpa Cal Simmons (my mom's dad) lost his battle with liver cancer and passed away. It was devastating for me. He was the BEST grandpa. He always made me feel like his #1 girl and greeted me with big hugs and kisses. Whether together we watched the Twins or Vikings on TV or he retreated to his den to take a nap (and, I might add, snore so loud we could hear him on the other side of the house), being in his presence made me feel great. I still miss him and think of him often. I especially wish he could see B&H and make them as special as he made me feel.
Grandpa Cal, taking pride in his gorgeous yard!

That spring, when I'd about learned how to deal with the grief of losing my grandpa, my Grandma Verna (Vernie) Ust (my dad's mom) fell ill. She had suffered a stroke in 2002 and had been living in a nursing home since. She had made a "sort of" recovery. She couldn't speak or walk, but she could communicate. Somehow all of our family knew what she was saying with her eyes and she understood our words, of course. As hard as it was to visit her in the home (prior to her stroke, she was the most vibrant, active, happy grandma around!), I made a point to do it. My grandma was very, very, very special to me. She was the matriarch of our family. Always happy to have her children & grandchildren around her. Always cooking fantastic meals for us to eat and teaching us everything from baking to cooking to crafting. She, like my Grandpa Cal, always made me feel like the most special person on earth. In the spring of 2005, she got sick and was admitted in the hospital. She eventually passed away in early April 2005 and our entire family was crushed. A very special angel made her way to heaven, but we were at a loss without our Grandma. I also especially wish she could have seen B&H. I can only imagine her happiness knowing I have twins. I think that would have made her so very proud. I *know* she would have told all her friends about B&H and would have talked about them with that little sparkle of love in her eye. She was so special. It's hard to explain, but those of us lucky enough to call her our mom, grandma, great-grandma, aunt, sister, friend, whatever know what what so special about her, even if we can't put it into words. She was just "grandma."
Grandma Vernie and a certain toddler,
circa 1981

For the first time, we spent Memorial Day in Brookings, SD (where both my mom's family and dad's family are from). We traveled there for my cousin Katie's graduation, but I found it so lucky that we were there on such a special day to remember our ancestors. We spent Sunday of Memorial Day weekend visiting the cemeteries and graves of my grandparents and planting flowers. I sort of felt like the trips to the cemeteries served as an introduction of B&H to my grandma and to my grandpa. It was a very special day to me, and I'm so thankful I got to spend it with my children, husband, and family!

B&H visit Grandpa's gravesite.

Hannie reads Grandpa's name. Both babies
loved touching the headstones & tracing
the letters etched in stone.

Ben reads Ust. (Maybe he's thinking "where's
the rest of the letters??"

B&H with my wonderful aunts Donna, Dee & Jean
planting flowers at their sister Dorothy's grave. (Dorothy
died in 1948 when she was 4 years old. She had polio).

Hannie helping dig up the ground to plant flowers at Jules Ust's
grave. He was my grandpa's cousin. He died in WWII at the age
of just 21.

Ben digs up the dirt at Grandma Vernie's grave.
Now, if you hadn't noticed, I thought my grandparents were GREAT. And now B&H can call them their great-grandparents, too.

B&H are very lucky, though. While we were in Brookings, they got to visit with their Great Granny! My Grandma Dorothy Simmons is about to turn 80! She lives in Brookings and is just as funny and loving as ever - despite living with macular degeneration. She LOVED having the babies around for a few hours one morning!

Squirmy Hannie escapes from Great Granny

Ben though playing at Great Granny's was FUN!
I love my family. I miss my grandparents who've passed away and enjoy spending time with Grandma Dorothy. I am so happy the babies got to spend time with their Great-Granny Dorothy last weekend. I love they got to learn a bit about their ancestors - and honor their Great-Grandpa Cal and Great-Grandma Vernie!

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