Tuesday, April 15, 2008

OT: Eulogy for Amy Vira Hettler McIlroy

I realize this has nothing to do with fitness, but I wanted to share it nonetheless. I was one of many--all family--who spoke at my Grandma's memorial service last weekend. Here is what I said about her.

I think I surpassed my Grandma in height when I was about ten years old. But if her physical stature had matched the amount of positive influence she had on my life, she’d have been ten feet tall.

I am a quilter. Grandma taught me how to thread a needle, to knot the thread by wrapping it around my finger, and once she even showed me how to make a pattern from an existing dress—although since then I’ve pretty much stuck to two-dimensional work, hence the quilting.

I am a reader. Grandma once caught me putting a paperback book open-face down because I didn’t have a bookmark handy, and told me in no uncertain terms ever to treat a book like that. Ever since, I’ve always made sure to mark my place—usually with a bookmark, but sometimes with a business card, a Kleenex, even a gum wrapper—so carefully that friends have noted, when looking at my bookshelves, that none of the spines of my books are broken.

I also remember a card table in the basement of 234 Shipherd Circle that held the remnants of her classroom library. When we visited in the summers, I used to love to raid that table for reading material—Jayne Eyre, Little Women, Nancy Drew, you name it.

I am an actress. Grandma gave me my first book of Shakespeare. It was a collection of selected works that I think she had used as a textbook when she was in college. She also took us to see a production of West Side Story. She was the first to explain to me that it was based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I remember being fascinated with the comparison.

One of the last times I was here to visit her, I brought a chapter of my unfinished book about Shakespeare. I read her the whole thing, but she slept through part of it. But I like to think she realized that her granddaughter was about to become a published author and that she was partly responsible for it.

I am a cook and a hostess. I have Grandma’s recipes things like scones and raisin cookies, and fond memories of time spent in the kitchen with her at 234. But some of my favorite memories are of the elaborate New Year’s Eve “parties” we used to hold—which often consisted of Grandma, Grandpa, me, and either Carl or a friend I would invite over. Grandma and I would make elaborate invitations and menus, then construct finger sandwiches and other goodies for the occasion. For some reason I remember that she gave me my first introduction to cucumber tea sandwiches, which at the time I thought were disgusting, but I ate anyway because Grandma thought they were cool, which automatically made them cool.

I am a singer. At Christmas when I was little, we used to gather around the piano and sing carols while she accompanied. “I Wonder as I Wander” remains one of my favorite carols because she taught me the words. Then of course there are the silly songs. “Boom Boom, Ain’t It Great to Be Crazy” and “Daisy Daisy” remain in the repertoire I sing to my daughter, including the lesser-known second verse of the latter, in which Daisy rejects Michael’s offer of marriage because he can’t afford a carriage and there’s no way she’s going to get hitched “on a bicycle built for two.”

I am a teller of jokes. While Grandpa was the comedian of the family, Grandma had her own, more subtle sense of humor. It combined equal parts of silliness and innocence, and her jokes sometimes left one feeling as if one didn’t get it, when there was usually nothing to get. So I’ll close these comments with her favorite: the bat joke.

One Sunday morning, a family of bats was walking to church. There was a Mommy Bat, a Daddy Bat, and a Baby Bat. The Baby Bat looked around and said, “Gee, I hope the four of us make it to church all right.” The Mommy Bat said, “Honey, there are only three of us.” The Baby Bat said, “Oh. I can’t count.”


VenetianBlond said...

A wonderful tribute.

Jenny said...

Beautiful! She sounds like a wonderful woman.