Saturday, June 4, 2011


I was making roasted potatoes, which I do often and was reminded of my Grandma Schmid's visit to Virginia. For some reason, my friends called my roasted potatoes my famous potatoes. I taught my grandma how to make them. Her reaction was classic. I popped them in the oven and she said, "Is that it? That's your famous potatoes?" Here I thought they were special and my grandma reminded me that they were just roasted potatoes. She wasn't trying to take anything away from me; she thought it was funny that something so simple was called famous. Grandma Schmid has already begun losing her memory. She still lived alone at that time, but was easily disoriented. We left post-it notes all over reminding her where she was and that Dad was downstairs. We had a great time! We ate well and shopped; all the things I enjoyed doing with that grandma.

Sadly, the next time I saw Grandma, her memory had gotten much worse. She still recognized me. Melanie and I stayed in Grandma's condo and helped clean it out as she had moved into assisted living. I had good conversations with Grandma on that trip; just the same ones over and over. She didn't know where I lived and what I was up to, but knew me. That changed quite soon after that trip. I kept trying to call her, but she didn't answer the phone. I wrote letters and she didn't know who they were from. I sent her the newspaper article about Roger and my engagement, the wedding invitation and some pictures after the wedding. I don't know if she understood or recognized any of it. I kept talking to Roger about a trip to New York so he could meet her, but it never happened.

Two weeks ago, Grandma Schmid passed away. She had some heart problems. She no longer recognized her sons. She fell asleep and never woke up. I had just given birth to RT and was already overly emotional. I was devastated by Grandma's death. I regretted not making the trip up there with Roger. I regretted that she would never know that I was back in North Dakota and had a son. I regretted never saying goodbye.

She was my last living grandparent. My step-grandma, Olga, whom I love dearly, is still living. But my Grandma Kristianson died when I was a freshman in high school. She was a wonderful grandma, one that knew how to spoil grandkids. She taught me about farm life and the importance of family and hard work. Her death was quick and unexpected. It was the first death of a family member that I remembered. It was tough.

Grandpa Schmid battled diabetes and kidney failure for years and years. When I was 20 years old, he passed away. I was lucky to have had hours and hours to talk to him at different points in my life. He served in the Army in World War II. I loved to talk to him about traveling and boating, things he loved. He taught me what a good husband was. He raised that bar and it took until meeting Roger to find someone even close. His death was somewhat expected, but I still took it hard. I think of him often.

Grandpa Kristianson was the most wonderful man I've ever met. His gentle love of family inspires me to be a good family member. He taught me to love unconditionally. He has inspired several generations as a man to look up to, to aspire to be. He passed away when I lived in Virginia. I had been home for Christmas and spent a wonderful day with him. His cancer had returned and he decided to go for chemo. His kidneys and liver just couldn't clean his blood anymore. It took two months for Grandpa to die. I spoke with him often; I wanted him to know that I loved him very much...he knew. He still guides me in decisions I make. I regret that he never met Roger or RT...he would have been so happy for me. He wanted happiness for all his loved ones.

When Grandma Schmid passed away, I lost a shopping buddy. I lost the inspiration for my love of literature and classic films. My grandma, Agnes, loved crossword puzzles, Jeopardy and crime shows. She had an eye for decorating her home. She made good coffee and could order pizza or Chinese food with the best of them. While she was lucid, she loved going to places and traveling. In 1996, I spent a few days in New York with her. We visited the Guggenheim and the big Macy's. We drove to the end of Long Island and stopped at the delicious Candy Man. It was a terrific trip; one that I will always remember. I will remember and honor my grandma as she was then. She cared for my grandpa through all his illness. She wore Playboy eyeglasses. She had a mink stole. She was, to me, a wonderful woman. I miss her, terribly.

When it comes to grandparents, I know I am lucky to have known all four. I learned different things from each of them. I think of all of them often and still miss each one of them. I'm fortunate to have a part of each of them in me. I look forward to finding their traits in RT. I will always share who his great-grandparents were. I hope, one day, he will feel like he knew them, too.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

A lovely tribute to your grandparents, Kate.
I know that you were a very special grandchild to Agnes!
The first one, the shining star.
Yes, now she is at peace it is easier to look back on the days when she was having fun and doing her exquisite needlepoints and looking after her well kept home.
Sort of an odd blessing that RT and she crossed if only for a week.

Happy birthday coming up.
ps I have a very pretty needlepoint saved for you!