Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Grandma's obituary and my childhood memories

This is what is written so far about my Grandma. She led a really interesting and long life. They are going to wait until December to do her memorial service so us out-of-towners can be there. I also have an uncle in Hawaii, and she has a daughter in N.Y.

Our loving Mother, 96, of Lake Travis, died peacefully in her sleep at home on Sunday, October 11, 2009. She was born the oldest daughter to avery poor family on June 1, 1913, in Fusagasuga, Colombia, south of Bogota, and rose from her humble beginnings to a good, long life of love, family and world travel. Shemet our father, Tolland, at the Friday Night Dances open to the public at the Officer’s Club at Ft. Amador near Panama City, Panama, while he was stationed at
the Panama Canal during World War II. They fell in love to the sounds of Big Band music, enjoyed many weekends at the warm, breezy beaches of Panama and married after
the war ended. She came to America in 1948 with our father, later becoming a citizen and together they raised 5 children, along with her two daughters from her previous
marriage in Colombia. She enjoyed traveling around the U.S. with our father and all of us children, and after our father’s passing in 1974, she traveled to many cities in
America, Europe, Mexico and Hawaii. She especially loved the horse races in N.Y. and gambling in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

She is survived by her sons, Ralph, of Kealakekua, Big Island, Hawaii; and John, of Lake Travis; her daughters, Nina Buyuksoy, of Queens, N.Y.; Linda, of
Houston and Wilma of Lake Travis; niece, Sofia Hatton of N.Y.; grandchildren, Danny Mendez, of N.Y; Michele, of Houston; Heather Brown, of Iowa; Heidi Blunt, of
Conroe; Johnny, of Austin; Kristopher, of Houston and 5 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband & our father, Tolland, her sister, Ines Ramirez of N.Y., her daughters, Nancy Perez, of N.Y.; Barbara, of Houston; and her grandson, Michael of Austin. Arrangements are being handled by Weed, Corley, Fish Funeral Home at 411 RR 620 South, Austin, TX 78734. A private memorial service at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetary in Houston is pending. Condolences may be sent to The Livesay Family, 1207 Sharps Rd., Austin, Texas 78734.

My Grandma helped to raise me. My mother and I lived with her off and on for most of my childhood. Sometimes my mom was living somewhere else. But I always had a home with my Grandmother. She was not always the happiest person. She could be cranky. But I always knew she loved me. She always found something interesting for us to do on the weekends. She never learned how to drive so we took the Metro or walked everywhere. We went to downtown Houston parades which usually took us about an hour to get to. First we had to walk at least half a mile to the bus stop. Then we had to wait for the bus. Then we were on the bus for at least 20 or 25 minutes. And then we sometimes had to get onto another bus to get to our destination. I usually feel asleep on the bus ride back home. I still remember her smell. She usually game me a stick of chicle (Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum). She used to take me to the parties of her friend, Doris Castillo. Doris was a really good cook! They used to make homemade tamales with banana leaves. The parties always involved food, music, and dancing. My Grandma always said people who dance have more fun. She was right.

My Grandma was a really good cook too. She could make the best fried chicken! She knew comfort food, homemade cakes, and bbq best. She learned it over the years. She didn't really make any ethnic dishes, except cow tongue, and the best fajitas with skirt steak. I hated the cow tongue. I used to slip food I didn't like into a show box and flush it when she wasn't looking. I can still smell the tongue cooking. And it still smells yucky to me.

I used to help her with the chores around the house. My best friend, Jenny next door used to come over sometimes for dinner. She loved her too and called her Grandma. Everyone in our family loved that tough old gal who could stand her ground.

My Grandma was a widow for 35 years. My Grandpa died at work when he was 64. He worked for the IRS in downtown Houston for many years. My mom, sister, and I went to live with her shortly after he died. My sister does not have such happy memories of Grandma. But Grandma was very protective of me. My step dad we left was had a very scary temper and it was usually directed at me (later to my sister) although I was just a toddler. Grandma saw how afraid I was of him and she used call him nasty names when he was not around. I used to hide from him when he was mad at me. He was too young to be a father. His own childhood may have been similar. So I am grateful that she stood up for me and am sorry he never was able to heal from his own traumas. He has apologized and I harbor no real animosity; we all make mistakes. I am sorry not everyone had a Grandma to stand up for them.

She used to take me to the movies too. We went to see Superman, Meatballs, Watchers in the Woods, Love at First Bite, Urban Cowboy and lots of others I can't think of off hand.
She was very friendly and talked to everyone. No one was a stranger to her. She used to leave gifts in the mail box and trash for the workers about 30 years ago. Times were different then. She was always generous though. She loved to sew us clothes and sewed me a belly dancer costume once for a school performance. That was my favorite, although I was terribly shy and I was very modest in that silky costume.

Her customs were a little different than Americans. Where she came from it was o.k. to tell a person they had gained weight. Well over the years as my sister and I gained weight in our 20s and 30s she always said something when greeting us which made us feel horrible. But the funny thing is last month when I saw her she asked me if I had lost weight. I was the same as I was 9 months earlier. I knew her mind was really slipping. But that was obvious from our phone calls when she always asked if my boys were in school. She had no concept of what we were doing with them and still always asked each week I'd call. But I still loved her and could feel her love over the phone and in person. She always thanked me for thinking of her and remembering her.

I miss those good old days, but now I get to pass on my Grandma's love of life onto my family and friends.


P.S. I will edit this later. Please ignore my typos. I'll add photos tomorrow.


Hilary said...

Hey, she shared a birthday with Nathan! Excellent day for excellent people. I grew up in my grandmother's house too, although we had more card games and kringla than dancing and fajitas. (((Heather)))

Deanne said...

What a sweet loving tribute to your grandmother. Made me think of my grandmas (I had extras thanks to my mom's 3 marriages), especially the two who took care of me alot when my mother was otherwise occupied.

My one grandma always used to give me a Butter Rum lifesaver, with the reminder, "Bite it in half so you won't choke on it." ;) Like you, I'm grateful to the wonderful women of our past who helped us become who we are today. Thanks for reminding me today.

Rachael said...

Fantastic post, Heather. You gave me such a clear picture of your wonderful grandma. My grandma was my solid rock in a rather slippery childhood as well so I empathize with you on lots of those points. I'm glad she went so peacefully after such a long, well lived life. You're on my mind. :^)

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Grandma's are sooo special! Thank goodness for them all---past and present.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

I came upon your wonderful tribute to your grandmother quite by accident and realized that I knew her some years ago (like 1977 or so).

I was the girlfriend of Ralph (Rafer) your uncle and we stayed with your grandmother, together with my son, Jason, for about six months or so.

Your description of her brought her right back to me, Indeed, she could be a little sharp tongued. But I will never forget that she took me shopping to buy clothes and shoes for J ason for school there and helped me out at
christmastime. I was never sure if she had much use for me but she truly loved children.

Was Barbara your mother? She and her two daughters lived in the house in Houston at the same time I did. I met Rafer, John, and Barbara in Breckenridge, CO.

I lost my husband of 30 years not too long ago and your obit really moved me. Very honest and real.

Sorry to ramble on.... I am kind of in shock from this blast from the past...

Would love to hear from Rafer if he's so inclined or, of course, from you.

Thanks for the memories -

Gayle gtimes2@live.com