What makes a mother grand? Is it simply the birth of her children's children? Technically speaking that's all it takes. Should a grandmother live to see her grandchildren's off spring she will be promoted again to great. These titles are descriptive of position not person. Yet many grandmothers are grand individuals. My grandma, Irene, certainly lived up to this designation.
Transplanted from East Hartford, Connecticut to the small town of North Plains, Oregon at the age of eighty eight, Irene knew how to bloom where she was planted. She embraced her new neighbors with open arms. She loved them by taking time to learn about them and generously distributed hugs and kisses. In return the community open it's heart claiming her as their own.
So hushed in the quiet Sunday clam a surprise celebration unfolded at the North Plains Senior Center where Irene had volunteered for the past decade. My Grandma knew the family was coming to celebrate her birthday but she had no idea how big the party would be.
Over a hundred well wishers of all ages along with five generations of family from all over the country gathered to sing, dance and eat cake with my grandma that day.
A very surprised Grandma!
I'm so thankful we were able to take this five generation picture. My daughter Rachel O'Neill along with her family traveled all the way from Pennsylvania for the event. In the center of the photo is G.G. Irene a great great grandmother! On the right her daughter, my mom, Janet Donaldson. Rachel is on the left. I'm holding my grand daughter Saoirse in the back.
Irene greets a young guest. In the baby's hand a hat crocheted by Irene.
Irene at eighty eight made new friends, Here she greets one of her new old friends.
The whole family!!
My 5 Favorite Grandma Irene memories:
- Her Kisses; When I was five my mother and I lived with her for a few months while my dad went to Officer Training School at the Navy base in Rhode Island. Every morning on her way out the door Irene would blot her lipstick by planting a kiss on my cheek. Apparently she had done this to her children when they were young too, an appalling habit in my mother's opinion. I on the other hand would run to the mirror and marvel at the mark of love. The whole world could see my grandma loved me! I treasure each kiss she's given me over the fifty three years of my life. Those without lipstick have marked my heart as powerfully as the others marked my face.
- Her Touch; She never just talked from a distance. She would snuggle up to you, pull you in. I watched her with strangers reaching out to hold their hands as she praised them for helping her or taking time to be with her. Her hands warm and gentle impressed my soul with the power of touch.
- Her Sweet Treats; Skipping into the dinner in the G. Foxes department store and plopping my bottom onto a swiveling stool at the counter proved almost treat enough to my five year old mind. Then my Grandma who worked as a waitress there came up to take my order. I didn't know what to get. So she told me she would make me a surprise; my first ever strawberry sundae! YUM! It's still one of my favorite treats. Last month as I helped move her out of her apartment into adult foster care I helped my self to the candy corn in a jar on her table. I'm sure I got my sweet tooth from her. I just hope I grow to have her sweet disposition as well.
- Her Praise; Irene was a builder. She never built a building but she built a family. She built a new community for herself late in life. She built them both by building up people. She never failed to give genuine praise. Her criticism was always constructive. She found success in helping others succeed.
- Her Colorful Character; From spring blossoms to fall leaves Irene enjoyed the colors God painted in the world. She loved God and the life He gave her. She treasured her French heritage and spoke the colorful language fluently. From the red beret she gave me when I was five to hot pink hat she donned on her birthday, her wardrobe colored the world she lived in. The last decade of her life she walked through North Plains displaying a colorful collection of knee socks, most gifts from friends and neighbors. The sock she wore paled in comparison to her colorful presence.
Last Saturday, April 11, 2015. my Grandma left her worn out frame and entered eternity. She lived as long as she was alive. Hers is a life worth celebrating!
At her 100th birthday party a good friend rewrote the words to my Grandma's favorite song and a small band of local musicians preformed it while Irene danced with her walker;
In loving memory of Irene Kay
born September 7, 1914 - died April 11, 2015
Good night, Irene. I'll see you in my dreams.