Monday, October 4, 2010

And we're moving on - hopefully

This past year has been one of continual loss for me. First it was my grandmother who passed away in early-mid November, 2009. In May I lost a friend of many decades - one who would have liked to have taken the place of my mother had my mother not still been living. On Memorial Day my favorite uncle passed away and my step-father died the day my uncle was buried. Three weeks later, after a phone call from a hospital in California, I flew to Sacramento, drove to Stockton and spent the next five weeks at my mother's bedside. She finally passed on August 1.
It's been rough. I find the framework that has supported my life is suddenly gone and, like an infant, I am wavering and unable to stand or even sit.
I'll get over it. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. In the meantime, as I struggle to overcome the deep loss, I want to take a few minutes to eulogize those who passed out of my life.
My grandmother - Ruth White Brown - was actually my blood-grandmother's first cousin. Some time after the death of my grandmother, my grandfather married Grandma Ruth. They were together for over 40 years. Grandmother was a very capable, intelligent business woman who loved to play fiddle and who was a grief counselor to the elderly. She outlived my grandfather by nearly 16 years.
My friend, Doris R. Griggs, was more a friend to the aunt who raised me, although we got along rather well. In recent years Doris became more and more incapacitated by arthritis and other ailments but she never lost hope that one day she would feel better and be able to walk without assistance once again. We chatted frequently by phone during these past several years. She always wanted me to come visit but I could only afford one trip a year and that trip was to visit my mother. I was saddened by Doris' death in May but when Mother died in August, my loss of Doris really hit hard. I would have happily visited her had she still been alive.
Uncle Ralph was a cheerful man who loved to tell stories and was quick to laugh. He was my 4-H instructor in numerous projects when I was a teenager. He taught me how to work with machinery in the field. He taught me how to care for cattle and horses. He taught me to love cowboy music and country living.
My step-father, Herman Paul Hermenau, was a brilliant, gentle, loving man. Fluent as he was in three languages (German, Portuguese and English), still one would never know he wasn't a native American. Completely loyal to his adopted country, Dad not only served in the U.S. Army in the 1930s but then enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and served 4 1/2 years in the South Pacific where he earned a Purple Heart. (He also wore shrapnel in his chest till the day he died.) He told me, once, "I promised your mother I would never leave her." He passed away four days before their 37th wedding anniversary. Mother died 7 weeks later. Dad, you almost made it.
Mother, Harriet Margaret Brown Hermenau, was a teacher of all ages. She taught elementary school, Sunday School, Relief Society, and gave music lessons. A lover of diverse cultures and peoples, Mother took in the children of refugees, helping them to become acclimated to our culture, meanwhile instilling in them a love of their own as well. She also worked on a volunteer basis with their parents, assisting them in settling in to their new country. Of particular interest to her were her Hmong friends. She wrote down some of their native folk stories, hired a talented artist, then self-published the resulting books so that her beloved friends' culture would not be lost. During her last years Mother, an inveterate reader, frequently read three books a day. These she happily discussed with workers in the nursing home where she spent the final 4 years of her life.
For each of you, my loved ones, I offer my gratitude for the place you have had in my life. Thank you, Mother, for giving me life. Thank you, Dad, for the support you gave Mother and the love you gave our family. Thank you, Grandmother, for your place of stability in our family circle. Thank you, Uncle Ralph, for all the skills you taught me. Thank you, Doris, for the gift of your time and the gift of money that enabled me to begin visiting my mother in the first place. I appreciate you all.