Why Lemony?
(the “About Me” page)

February 07, 2009

Grandma Viola

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I just got back from Port Townsend, Washington, saying goodbye to my father's mother, Grandma Viola, and saying hello to relatives I haven't seen in many years.

To me, Grandma Viola was my colorful, happy, butterfly-loving grandmother(that's her on the right from our 2003 visit) but I found out so much more about her from all my aunt's and father's stories. Apparently, she was a dead shot with a rifle, knew how to dodge or behead rattlesnakes as the need arose, and quit school after eighth grade to go pick cotton with the men on her Oklahoma farm because she thought it was more fun than sitting around a school house. She got hold of the textbooks, made good use of the library, and taught herself. She had a pioneering spirit- her first job was as an airplane mechanic to support the war effort. When she saw a need in the community, she would find a way to fill it herself. She looked around when my father was ready for school and didn't like any of the kindergartens around, so she started her own! She also started a school for handicapped children and an elder care center. Wow. Go Grandma!

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After she passed, her spirit was so strong around us that our family felt connected in a new and deeper way. There was so much singing and laughter both at her bedside and through all the work to be done after her transition to the next world. I took Teresa with me on this trip and she provided the much needed service of making everyone laugh and sigh with cuteness through the whole ordeal. It was an interesting juxtaposition of very young and very old with everyone in between as an audience. We could see the cycle of life in it's entirety, all in one little hospital room.

I had a great time getting to know my three aunts: Jean, Elaine, and Debbie, Uncle Stephen and my cousins Oliver and Annie. It was fun seeing my dad in the context of his three sisters. It made me laugh every time their interactions reminded me of the way my girls talk to each other. There's something to all that birth order stuff, I tell ya. Also, everyone in that family is an artist, of one medium or another, and I loved all the drawing and painting and cutting out of little paper shapes that we did together. We came home with many beautiful tiny art works that the girls and Billy oohed and aahed over. And I got to see the vacation rental that Oliver designed and runs with Aunt Elaine. So cozy and charming and pleasing to the eye.

Here's a little collage of some of the few pictures I took on this trip.


Left to right and top to bottom: Aunts Jean, Elaine, and Debbie playing with paper, very round rock, Annie looking for treasure, Aunt Elaine playing flower fairy dress-up with Teresa, dad looking cozy, Elaine and Stephen's pet ducks, Elsa Bishop holding out duck weed to feed said ducks, awesome seaweed- I didn't know it came in crimson!, and Teresa laughing at Grandpa Danny's antics during hide and seek.

Oh yeah, so, Katie, Nathan, and Elsa drove out from Seattle to Aunt Elaine's house to visit us! That filled my heart with gladness, took away all my sadness, etc. just like the song. Elsa's got rock star hair!

Posted by Bahiyyih at February 7, 2009 12:01 PM

Thank you for sharing your experience in Washington, Bahiyyih. It was lovely to see the pix, lovely that the Bishops came to love you up, lovely to imagine the Phillips crew together in song and prayer and doing the sisters/brother thing. I really appreciate hearing more of Vi's childhood. I never asked her about that part of her life. I do remember that she was counting shooting stars for some branch of the armed services, lying on the ground (in New Mexico?) and gazing upwards, when she was pregnant with Danny. She was an intrepid babysitter for you and Layli when Danny and I were out working for the Albuquerque Symphony Orchestra on their Christmas operas, "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and "Hansel and Gretel." Quite a task for a grandma alone. And she gave us shelter between teepee residences. It would have been tough going without her.


Posted by: Nana at February 10, 2009 12:15 PM