Friday, January 18, 2013

Ramona Lucille Worley - My Grandmother

Five years ago today I got a phone call that I was wholly unprepared for, the details of it are forever etched in my memory.  It was a Friday morning, I had gone to the grocery store already and was busy alternating between cleaning and studying.  My phone rang showing my sister-in-law's name, I answered to the voice of my actual sister.  She asked me if I was sitting down.  Not sure what in the heck she was getting at I kind of rolled my eyes and said "Sure."  Then she said these words "Grandma Worley died today".  Suddenly all of the air rushed out of my lungs and I felt like I had just been punched in the stomach.  I didn't know what to think or feel, all I knew was that I hadn't said a last good-bye or "I love you".

Her passing was a complete shock, she was not sick and was not experiencing any significant uncontrolled health problems that anyone knew of, it truly came out of the blue.  I still miss her every single day.

I think she was about 16 in this photo
My grandmother was a sweet woman.  She was born in 1926 in Northern Arkansas and her family eventually moved to Southern Missouri.  Her father owned and worked a cotton farm, as a result her family actually weathered the Great Depression better than most.  She often told stories of her father taking in other families for short times during this period of history.  She clearly was not completely unaffected by the Depression, though, I remember a rather interesting furniture shopping trip where she had to excuse herself to the restroom prior to paying for the couch she had picked out.  She only ever shopped with cash, and my mother later told me with an amount that large she very likely had to go to the restroom to retrieve it from her bra.

Yes, this is a picture of her I found from the 1930's
The story of her name is one of my favorites.  Her father had apparently met a Native American woman at some point in his life named Ramona.  He was quite taken with her and thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, that is until his daughter was born.  The first time he saw this baby girl he felt she deserved the name of the most beautiful woman in the world and so Ramona was passed on to her.

My grandmother on the left in the white dress, and her family

Playing a guitar
To my knowledge she only ever completed the sixth grade, but that would not be abnormal for a farm girl in that part of the country at that time.  She may not have been educated, but she most certainly was not stupid.  She definitely knew math, probably even better than I currently do because of her sewing.  Growing up she made me, my cousin, and sister numerous dresses.  She also was a superb quilter, and all of her quilts were 100% hand done.  Piecing, quilting, binding, every stitch was from her hand.  When my family sorted through her belongings they were kind enough to save the quilt she was in the process of making for me, along with all of the uncut fabric she had collected for it.  I am slowly working on completing it, however it will take quite awhile because I am determined to complete it the way she would have, by hand.

At some point in her young life she got a job at a jewelry store in the local town.  It was here that she eventually met my grandfather.  The story is quite sweet, I only hope I can tell it remotely accurately.  My grandfather had a pocket watch and he would frequently bring it into the store for repairs and strike up conversations with my grandmother.  Finally the owner of the jewelry store pulled my grandmother aside and informed her that the watch never really needed repairs, the gentleman was just bringing it in constantly to be looked at so he could have an excuse to talk to her.

In the jewelry store where she met my grandfather
Eventually they began seeing each other, however because my grandmother was actually older than my grandfather his family did not approve of the relationship.  Rather than break things off though, they decided to elope and thus their life together began.

My grandparents together
They started a family with my aunt coming along first.  My grandfather then did a deployment for the Korean war, and shortly after his return they added my mother to the family.

My grandmother with my aunt sitting next to my grandfather's military portrait, their wedding portrait also sitting in the back
This is how you dress for making dinner
My grandmother was a perfect homemaker.  She could cook, bake, clean, sew, and care for a baby with class.  June Cleaver had nothing on this woman.  I am so lucky that she was able to teach me so many things in my life, like how to make an apple pie with fresh picked apples.  I don't know how many times in the fall I would go visit her and end up leaving with a whole grocery bag full of apples from the tree in her front yard.
One of my favorite pictures of her

A lot of my favorite childhood memories involve my grandmother.  I remember one house she and grandfather lived in that had some acreage which my aunt kept horses on.  I loved going to that house because I always got to go out the barn to visit the horses.  The day I discovered an almost complete collection of the original Nancy Drew series was one of the best in my life.  I was so into the Babysitters Club at the time, and of course Claudia was my favorite character and she loved Nancy Drew books so naturally I wanted to read them.  Each visit my cousin and I were allowed to pick one book to take with us after returning the previous ones we had borrowed, it was always a treat to browse through and pick the next one I wanted to read.  

She was also the typical grandmother, always telling me I was too skinny and needed to eat more, always sending me home with one more slice of pie, or at times a whole pie.  She may have been somewhat traditional and "old-fashioned", she never would have been one of those grandmother's retiring to Florida playing Bingo every Thursday.  She never drank alcohol and never swore (at least not in front of me).  She had a big heart though, she always looked for the best in those she loved never willing to believe the worst.

Cradling me as a baby

One of the best times of my life came while I was in college.  One year my schedule worked perfectly so that every Tuesday I had a large chunk of time with no class and no work.  I used this time to go visit her every week.  Sometimes we just had lunch and hung out at her home, other times I would drive her into town to let her run errands.  Never having learned to drive herself, she had to rely on others to take her out.  I also loved being able to treat her out to lunch on these outings, she had always given so much to me it felt nice to be able to give something back for her.

Celebrating my college graduation
She never really understood why I wanted to go so far from home for grad school, but I know she was so proud of me.  She would tell all of her friends and relatives what school I had gotten into and what I would be doing with my life, clearly showing off in her own way.  

While I eventually recognized that she might not be around for any children I might have, there were events in my life that I had never actually contemplated having to experience without her there.  My mother and I were already trying to figure out the best way to get her to DC for my grad school graduation, she didn't like planes so a long road trip was looking like the only option.  I also just always assumed she would be there with me on my wedding day.  Sadly, she missed both.  

Ultimately I found little subtle ways to have her there at my wedding.  I had been given a locket of hers with her first initial engraved in it, which also happened to be the same initial for my new last name, so I wrapped the locket around the stem of my bouquet.  A few weeks before my mother came out for the big day my aunt found an almost finished heart shaped pillow she had been working on, my mother took it and finished it and it became our ring pillow.  Despite not having her with me for these moments, it does help me to know that she did get the chance to meet more than one of her great-grand children, and she even got to know that one more was on the way.
With her first two great-grand children

The hardest part of her passing for me was the fact that I never got to say good-bye or one last "I love you".  You see, after moving to DC I got very bad at staying in touch with people.  I was so busy with school that I felt like I didn't have time to make phone calls.  I always told myself I would call the next weekend thinking I had plenty of time.  Even harder was that the same morning she passed away was also the first morning in weeks that I had actually picked up the phone and dialed her number, and she never answered.  A few hours later the call from my sister came instead.

Knowing that I could have had one last opportunity to talk with her closer to the loss if only I had made her more of a priority leaves me with a deep sense of guilt and regret.  I'm still working on letting go of these feelings.  It helps to continue putting many of the skills she taught me to use, it almost feels like she's sitting with me while I crochet or quilt or bake an apple pie.  I frequently joke that these hobbies make me a secret 70 year old, but really I can only hope that I am half as talented as she was.

My grandmother was a truly amazing and surprising woman.  I am so lucky to have had her as a part of my life.  I only wish that I had made her the priority she deserved to be, but I can't change that, I can only move forward and aim to live my life in a way that would continue to make her proud.

The essence of who she was, a sweet farm girl from rural Missouri
The take away from my story is this, never assume you have more time, never put off calling someone you care about to say "I love you" or even just a simple hi.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I saw your comment on Cupcakes and Cashmere. This is a lovely tribute to your grandmother and I enjoyed reading it. It sounds as though you shared lots of wonderful times together, you should cherish your memories :)