One-Yard Wonders projects

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Goodbye, Grandma Maxine

Grandma Maxine died this morning.

I read the text of that announcement as I was walking out of the office -- ice crunching beneath my boots, a big truck rumbling behind me, a light snow swirling through the parking lot. It stopped me in my tracks. 

Grandma is gone. 

I'd been preparing for, actually I'd been praying for, that very message for the past day. I could not bear the thought of her suffering, of her having to struggle through her final days. I was so glad death came quickly, just as she had wanted. But I'm still so very sad that she is gone. 

Vanita Maxine Drake Barnett -- born Feb. 21, 1927, on a horse farm in Mt. Ayr, Iowa -- survived by her loving husband Theron Barnett, her daughters Kathryn Wirt and Sherie Barnett, six grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren with one more great-granddaughter on the way. 

She was married for 66 years. Grandpa said today that he fell in love with her the moment they met. They were married four months later, eloping on Christmas Eve. Their love was the most romantic thing about Grandma. She was really quite proper in every other way. I never saw my grandma wear jeans, or go barefoot, or sit cross-legged in a chair. As Aunt Jean says, "Maxine is a classy lady." And she really was. The only time you saw a mischievous twinkle in her eye that gave away a hidden personality was when Grandpa was teasing her. He loved to tease her, and she loved to give it right back. I never heard them raise their voices to one another. Never saw one unkind act. He loved her, and she loved him.   

Grandma was a teacher. Grandpa had just returned from World War II. One of grandma's students thought her sophisticated teacher would be a good match for her big brother. And he was. They moved to South Carolina where my mom was born, then to Florida where Aunt Sherie was born, and then returned to Iowa. Grandpa bought an old church, took it apart board by board, and used that lumber to build their home.

Grandma taught school for 40 years. It is no coincidence that I chose a career as a writer -- she edited every paper I wrote in middle school and high school, praising them lavishly and encouraging my skills. When I was in college, I saved every newspaper article I wrote and sent them to her. After graduation, I kept sending her my stories wherever I was working. She was always my biggest fan. And I, one of hers.

Tonight on Facebook I said I would write thousands of words about this amazing woman, and I will. But not tonight. There are so many stories I need to record. So much advice I need to store away for Violet and the other great-granddaughters. And so many memories I mustn't forget, like this one:

The last time I visited Grandma, the final words she said were, "Goodbye honey, come back and see us soon." It's what she always said after she hugged you and walked you to the door. Then she'd stand in the big picture window and wave goodbye as you backed out of the driveway. The last image I have is of Grandma smiling at us and waving goodbye.  

You really can't ask for more than that. Good night, Grandma Maxine. I love you and will carry you in my heart always. 

Grandma and baby Violet

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