shared memories of a loved one
Philosophy on life
It is my philosophy that as a Human we must do what we can to ensured that our loved ones live on. The way for us to do this is in our memories. We have to tell what we know to those that are still here, and in this in some small measure they will continue to live.
Hope Claire (Wismer) Tomsett was my Grandmother. She was born in October of 1916. She passed away April 12, 1972. Those are just the minute details, its what happened in between those dates that I find interesting. Due to her passing when I was 10, most of what I learned about her came after her death. Before I share that part, I would like to share what came directly from my mind.
We lived on one side of the State, while my grandparents lived on the other. It was a treat to have them come for a weekend visit. My mother would do a lot of preparing in anticipation. Cleaning and vacuuming, dusting was my chore. My brother and I were enlisted to help, the house was never messy, my Mom was a very organized person, yet she wanted it ‘extra’ special.
As soon as Grandma arrived, she always had a little something for my brother and I. Usually their visits were due to Holiday’s so that made it extra special. Grandma was afraid that I would spend my entire life barefoot, so she always bought me shoes. I had shoes of every color and an outfit to match each pair. I think of all the shoes she bought me my favorite pair were the red patent leather ones. I felt like a princess wearing them, maybe that was her intention.
At Christmas time, the living room was filled with presents. The term ‘under the tree’ didn’t quite fit for our family, the gifts were spread halfway across the room and stacked on top of each other. Of course they were for all of us, and the presents were from Mom and Dad, not just from Grandma and Grandpa. Usually Aunt June and Uncle Vern would join in the gift giving as well. It was always a joyous time for my brother and I, the anticipation was hardly contained. We would get up Christmas morning, Santa had come to visit so we had those toys to occupy our time until the grown ups got up. Mom would make breakfast for all, Grandma would make a snack tray, when we had eaten and everything was in place, everyone seated, my brother or I would be designated “Santa” for the day. One gift at a time would be passed around. We all watched while someone opened their gift, oooing and ahhhing where appropriate. Most of the gifts had some sort of explanation from the giver. This would last for hours, I think the longest on record for us was 8 hours. We would take breaks of course for bathroom and munching. After the gift giving was finished and piles of gifts abounded, we would all participate in the clean up, wrapping paper was the only thing tossed. Grandma collected all the boxes, bows, and ribbons to use the next year.
Summertime was always met with joy for us, my brother and I would take turns spending a week with Grandma and Grandpa. Because my brother was older he got to go first. My week without him was spent in anticipation of the week to come.
We usually arrived at night, so I would go straight to bed. I slept with Grandma in her bed, her and Grandpa didn’t sleep together. Grandma said it was because he moved around and farted too much. I had to lay as still as I could, if not I’d get poked with an warning to “be still”. I learned to be still, to this day I do the same, to those sleeping in my bed.
I’d wake up and it was quiet time. Grandma would be sitting at her kitchen table studying her Bible, drinking her coffee. I would quietly get my cereal and milk out and eat my breakfast. She had these neat little metal things that she used to place in her bible, she could turn directly to where she wanted to read. I knew when quiet time was almost over because she would start moving her markers for the next day. She would sometimes explain to me what she had learned that day.
After bible study was finished it was time to get to work. Grandma always had lots of things she had planned for my visits. I learned some cross stitching, crocheting, knitting or other hand crafts. Grandma said “Idle hands are the devils workshop”, whatever that meant. I have since learned if you keep the hands and mind busy, you won’t get into trouble.
The most fun came when it was time for canning. I remember putting up peaches with her most of all. My hands were little so they fit in the jars just right. I was allowed to wash them with the hottest water I could stand. We would pour boiling water over the ripe peaches, wait until the skin popped then for me, Grandma would run one under cool water so I could hold it. We’d peel and peel, she’d cut and take out the pit, I’d place the peeled and pitted peaches in the bottom of the jars. Cut side down, all layered and pretty, so they’d be pretty setting on her shelf. She’d make a simple syrup and bring it to a boil and I’d watch as she poured it over the peaches. She’d put the lids and rings on them and place them in her canner, cook them for 20 minutes, take them out and place them gingerly on the counter. We’d sit and listen for the ‘Pop’ of the lids to seal. She said that was music to her ears.
They lived in a small mobile home park with a small yard, but that yard was a site to behold. My Grandma loved flowers, she had what is termed a ‘Green thumb’ and she tried to impart that on me. We’d go outside and work in her flower beds. The only grass in her yard was between flower beds and was just wide enough for Grandpa to get the lawnmower through. People would come from all over to admire her flowers. Between the flowers and trees it was like a jungle. Pansies were her favorite flowers, she’d lovingly hold a bloom and say “I just love their little faces, aren‘t they pretty?”. I have to agree, pansies are still one of my favorite flowers.
In the afternoons she would have me sit between her knees and she would French braid my hair. It was short so she had her work cut out for her, she somehow managed to braid my hair and only use 1 bobby pin to hold it all. I was never able to learn just how she did that, though I have tried. My Grandma would do her hair in pin curls, rather than rollers. It was amazing to watch her put her hair up in all those curls with 2 bobby pins holding each curl. Her hair was a beautiful auburn color, so when they came out, her hair was shiny and bouncing with curls, until she put them in place with hair spray.
Grandma was a no nonsense sort of woman, she wasn’t all squishy, though I could count on getting a hug and kiss whenever I wanted. She didn’t talk down to me like a lot of adults did. If I asked a question she’d answer it the best that she could. She didn’t sugar coat anything for anyone. I loved to sit at the table when there was company and listen to the conversation. As long as I didn’t get involved and was quiet I was welcome.
One summer my Aunt and Uncle decided to spend what I think was their summer vacation at our home. They had all the kids so my brother and I knew joy! We had kids to hang out with, it wasn’t often that we got to spend time with our cousins, we only knew them by picture. Everyone cried when they came, and of course the tears were worse when it was time for them to go. I remember my Grandma’s joy at seeing my Uncle and Aunt and all the kids. She was in her glory with her family surrounding her.
In March of 1972 we moved within 5 miles of my Grandparents home, I was happy that we were so close, I would get to spend more time at Grandma’s house. On the evening of April 11th, they came to visit bringing with them starts of a tree for Mom and Dad, the tree was a Corkscrew. It was looked similar to that of a weeping willow only the leaves and branches twisted, making it look like it was having a bad hair day. Grandma had me sit on the floor between her knees so she could do my hair for school the next day, as she was doing this our dog Chee-Chee sat by us. Chee-chee loved my grandma but didn’t hang out with her much, so Grandma asked her “What’s wrong girl? Is something going to happen to me?” That launched a discussion about what dogs are able to sense. They stayed for a little while longer, then left for home.
The Phone call
The next afternoon as my mother was preparing dinner, my Grandpa called. I was in the bathroom and I remember hearing my mother scream, I thought something good was happening, Mom didn’t scream often. I ran out to see what was going on, and my mother was crying, hanging on to the phone and the wall for support. She called my Dad at work and I couldn’t believe what I heard her tell him “Richard, I need you home right now, my mother is dead.” The next few hours seemed to run into a blur, I remember my brother and I being told to get in the car, we pulled up, the ambulance was there, we were told to stay in the car. As we looked a gurney was being wheeled out with a white sheet covering someone, there were elbows sticking out of the sheet. I knew those elbows, that’s the way my Grandma slept. I was hoping they were wrong, that she was just sleeping and when they got her to the hospital she would wake up. It was not to be.
I was allowed one visit at the funeral home, it was decided that a funeral was not a place for a child. I remember a lot of people that I didn’t know being there. One person I knew was there for me, my Uncle. He came in his uniform, he was still in the Army. I remember thinking how proud my Grandma would have been, he looked so handsome in his uniform. We just sat together side by side in chairs looking at Grandma, we both cried.
It wasn’t until after the funeral that I learned much more about my Grandma. We all met back at my Grandpa’s house, the place was crowded, people coming and going. Each had a story to tell, most of them were funny stories. There were so many things I learned about my Grandma at that time. I learned she had a great sense of humor, I learned that she actually had a life before I was born but most of all I learned that she was loved by a lot of people.
When Mom and Grandpa were going through her things I was given something that I considered special, something that I didn’t know she did and I still have it. She liked to write poetry. In her book I found a poem she wrote for me when I was 1 1/2.
She sits upon the table
She stomps upon the floor
She screams and hollers
For cookies more.
I don’t know what we’ll do
For she is as sweet as
A child can be
Her name is Susan Lynn
As you can see.
I hope when she grows up
That she will be
Just as pretty as
Anyone can be.
This was written at the very beginning’s of her poetry, she has many more in her book and several of them were written about and for her loved ones. This one was mine.
How will you be remembered?
With the memories that were shared by those that loved her, I grew to know a side of her that I am able to pass along to my loved ones. Have you kept the memories alive of those you love? How will you be remembered?