Positive Yarn

January 23, 2009

A week of goodbye

Filed under: Personal — heathergooch @ 5:23 pm

If you’re wondering why my posts have been sparse this week, it’s because I had to say goodbye to my mentor. My grandmother died Monday at the age of 86. My mind rationalizes that she had lived a good long life, enjoying grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My spiritual side rationalizes that she has reunited with the only man she ever loved, who left her a widow 35 years ago. But I’m going to miss her mightily.

Gram sat me down when I was 5 and taught me how to embroider lazy daisies and French knots all over a preprinted pattern of a flower basket. Being stubborn and inpatient (almost as much as she was, but at least she understood), I would rip out any stitch she would make as demonstration so I could truly say that every stitch in the piece was mine. About a year later, I was enthralled by her vast collection of crochet hooks and asked that she teach me how to do that, too. She did, although I only have a couple of scraggly projects to prove it. Luckily, I have several completed afghans and baby blankets that she made over the years, and as I type this I wear her beautiful black and white wrap around my shoulders. It’s like getting a hug from her again.

As a professional seamstress for many years, Gram loved using her “power” sewing machine. The industrial-grade machine would dim all the downstairs lights as she worked upstairs in the sewing room, making it hum as it created my First Communion dress, repaired the rips in my favorite soft-bodied doll’s midsection or created the outfits of one of the hundreds of clown dolls she made and sold at craft fairs. During my overnight visits with her as a child nearly every weekend, I was only allowed to touch the much-less-intimidating Singer machine that usually resided on her dining room table. I made about five tube-style Barbie dresses, then decided that Gram was much, much better at this sort of thing.

In high school, as I coped with all the drama that being a teenager brings, Gram got me into making ceramics. She was always such a talented, creative soul. She was self-taught but a natural teacher — she was in her element if she could tell someone what to do! Of course, I mean that in the most affectionate way.

When I started getting into counted cross stitch about 13 years ago, Gram was starting to hang up the crafting and sewing habits. She delighted that I was dedicated myself to sewing again, and gave me several hoops and needles. She was also starting to make rosaries for the local Our Lady of Fatima Group. Even as recently as Jan. 3, she was still stringing the beads, making more than 150 rosaries a week for both soldiers serving overseas and for local needs. She had arthritis, diabetes and other ailments, but she felt that the Blessed Mother was working through her as she created each one anew. My daughters instinctively knew whenever we visited “Grandma Jo” in the nursing home that their primary task was to pick up all the beads she dropped recently and organize them into the many cups, bowls and other makeshift containers she used.

It’s Gram who instilled me in the importance of piecework when faced with a large task. From her tales of the days at Gordon Uniform, where making hundreds of sleeves at a sitting just meant you were that much closer to making hundreds of finished jackets, I learned that you can get things done if you just work on it at least a bit at a time. I remember weekends where her living room was filled with hundreds of crochet star snowflakes stacked and ready to be starched and glittered; little white balls that sat patiently waiting to be transformed into clown faces with a couple of Sharpie pens; and half-completed drum ornaments that only needed toothpick-sized drumsticks glued on to be called complete. We may have gone to lunch first, visited with some of her many, many friends, and maybe even waited until Dallas or Love Boat came on the TV that night, but we always managed to get it done in time for the next craft show.

The time I spent with her is some of my best memories of childhood, and perhaps adulthood as well. She always had a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. The lessons she taught me went well beyond how to a hold a needle or paintbrush.

I can only aspire to be as goodhearted of a person as she.

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