If I shared every memory and great thing about my Grandma we would no doubt be here for hours, days, and possibly weeks. She was without a doubt a one of a kind lady that I know inspired us all in one way or another. She made her presence known in a room and not because she was flashy, she never liked the spotlight, but her genuine attitude about life made you want her company even more. One of my earliest memories I can recall is of her. I can still see her seated at the head of the table while friends gathered round and they all laughed contagiously at her snappy comebacks. It was a moment for me that I realized my Grandma was well-loved and attracted those who wanted to hear the honest truth, because whether we liked it or not she was going to give it to you.
I have the honored privilege to say that I am her first grandchild. Something she wouldn’t want me to brag about, but I think it’s important to share this pivotal moment in her life. She took her role very seriously. So serious in fact that when she would introduce herself to new people she would often refer to herself as Grandma. She loved her grandkids so deeply that she would do anything for us. Well, anything as long as it involved a lesson. She was a great teacher and much like a great teacher, she knew our weaknesses and our strengths. She knew how to encourage those strengths and gave us tools to help in areas that we were weak. At a very early age I was a worrier. I still am if I’m being truthful. She knew this. She knew early on that this would be my biggest struggle. And even then, in my single digit age she provided me tools to help. In this case it was a worry box. A place where I could write all my worries, place in them in the box, close the box and not worry about them anymore. She was insanely heartfelt like that, but not for too long because in her eyes she need not be too serious for very long. The last time we saw her walking around on her own, she made sure to do a crazy little dance to ensure that we need not worry about her health. I know this was all for my daughters’ benefit as they laughed their butts off but I know this silly little antic was for my benefit too. “Don’t worry, be happy, Ash!” she’d say and then continue to sing “Don’t worry, be happy!” with her own beat box version of the melody.
Trying to pin down one particular story or special memory of my Grandma would be hard, but I at least wanted to elaborate on one. I struggled on which story to choose. Do I share about the time she put me up on the kitchen counter and taught me the importance of criss-cross fork marks on peanut butter cookies? Or the multiple times she would do donuts in an abandoned parking lot. I promised we had our seatbelts on. Or the time when I realized my Grandma was fearless when she picked up a snake while we were on a hike. It wasn’t poisonous. Or so she says. Maybe I should share about all the times us kids travelled with her in the RV and would play the Yakety-Yak Don’t Talk Back song by The Coasters on repeat until we reached our final camping destination. She never tired of us screaming all the lyrics. Perhaps I should share more about the times I would stay the weekend at her house and she would have the pantry stocked with popcorn and chocolate chip cookie ingredients. As well as, a very LONG list of things she wanted to achieve while I was there. I’ll never forget the time that I returned from a camping trip and told her the news that I out fished the Cooper boys. The high-fives were endless. She loved to fish and she was all about that girl power. (For the record it was 21 fish!) She loved a good competition. Especially when it came to the game called Spoons. I know some of you have played with her and lived to tell about it. I’ve got a tiny little scar on my right index finger from a viscous game of spoons where she drew blood. Like I said, she likes a good competition. And she obviously never held back. She never held back from pulling pranks either. She was the QUEEN of pranks! I got her back once though. I got the clever idea to sew her luggage zippers together while she was visiting. As you know most pieces of luggage have two zippers to an opening. Well, I sewed both of them together so as one zipper was opening the other was closing. I’d like to think she was proud of me, but I have never heard so much cursing in my life and I didn’t dare ask if I did a good job. When we moved out of state and then again out of the country she was nothing short of supportive. Well, that was until I started having babies. Her role of Grandma was promoted to great-grandma, or “Gigi.” She never missed a Skype call to us in Japan and always put on the best puppet shows for Stella. When we moved back to the states with Stella and newborn Ruby we were stationed only a two-hour drive away. Grandma didn’t hesitate to make it part of her schedule to visit us once a week. She made sure she was never a burden and pushed David and I out of the house so we could have a date night while she soaked up every bit of our girls while cleaning house. She said it was a blessing to be around them and to help around the house. I never questioned it because, well, have you ever questioned my Grandma? When she was diagnosed with lung cancer she still made her rounds to visit us. I didn’t dare stop her. I knew visiting us was what she wanted most. She was royally upset the time she visited after her first chemo treatment. I made sure the house was spic-and span and there wasn’t one drop of clothing for her to wash. She was MAD. I didn’t make that mistake again. I knew deep down keeping busy is what made her feel most alive and I wouldn’t do anything to make her feel anything but that. Even if that meant me reluctantly keeping enough dirty laundry on hand to keep her satisfied.
One particular memory that keeps popping out at me is one that took place when I was a teenager. There’s nothing razzle-dazzle about it. It was a cloudy day. I think it even rained. We were visiting my Uncle Roy. Everyone was riding quads out front on a dirt track. I knew before long my grandma would ask if I wanted to ride and I already knew I was going to say no. You see, apart from being a worrier I was also an observer. I liked to observe and learn. That was me and I was proud of that trait. I wanted to figure out how exactly the quads worked and how everyone was riding them. I had never ridden a quad before so I was giving myself my very own lesson by observation. Sure enough she approached me and asked. I told her I just wanted to watch for now. Deep down I didn’t want to make a mistake. I was worrying again. It didn’t take her long before she approached me again. This time she was stern and looked me dead in the eye and said, “You’re never going to learn if you don’t make mistakes.” She already knew how my brain was operating. “Watching doesn’t give you experience. Are you just going to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone have fun?” She was starting to get pushy. Like some of us have experienced. I replied with a big fat “No!” The kind of “no” that only know-it-all teenagers know how to muster up. I sat there sulking knowing all too well she was in fact right and that I needed to do it. So I did. And I had a blast. It was far more fun than watching everyone else. Like she said. Her words that day changed my attitude about life. From then on I wasn’t as scared to try new things. Experiencing was part of learning. I tried out for Drama. Got a part. I ran for Student Government. Got the position. I even held positions in the Christian Club as well as Yearbook. My high school years would have looked a bit grim for not having stepped out and put fear of the unknown aside. I’ve of course carried this same attitude with me since. And it’s all because she pushed me out of my comfort zone that day. Her initials were: PP. Pamela Payne. I think we can agree that that can also stands for Persistent and Pushy. Two traits she never denied. She pushed to get you out of your comfort zone. She saw our potential. What’s life if you stay in your cozy spot? How are you supposed to grow? You see Grandma was never about herself. She was about everyone else. She wouldn’t stay cozy for her sake. She knew others could use her God-given gifts and out she went to share them despite the possibility of being a little uncomfortable. She was like a walking inspirational billboard. You know the ones. One big photo, one huge word, and a cheesy saying underneath that really did make you think.
One of the last deep conversations I had with her was about heaven. She knew she was going there and loves God so very much, but was still troubled with one thought. She said “God created me so he must know that I like to stay busy, right? He better have a job for me.” I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. I asked if she wanted to travel around heaven. You know, scope it out. Adventure. Meet Moses. She said, “No, I’d like to have a job.” The more I thought about it and how silly it sounded. She was right. AGAIN. God created her this way and I’m sure He’s got her doing something right up her alley and I have a sneaking suspicion it involves all of us. I know there are rough roads ahead for all of us and when we lean on Him and ask for guidance Grandma is going to be up there all persistent and pushy making sure we get the help we need. I’m sure she’ll have made the best of angel friends and will ask favors on more than one occasion to send us messages of love and encouragement.
I’m thankful for that persistent attitude. I’m thankful she pushed me to be the best me. I’m thankful my husband got to be one of her grandkids and got to experience all that goes with that grand title. I’m thankful to see the same thrill seeking always ride rides with your arms up craziness in Stella. I’m thankful that every time we sing Jesus Loves Me, Ruby lights up and says, “Gigi” over and over. I’m thankful I see traces of her everyday. Either it be from the bible verses she’s hidden around my house that I stumble upon or from the hummingbirds that make visits to my bedroom window even though there are no flowers or nectar present. Overall I’m thankful for her legacy. The legacy of living life for others and not caring one bit how messy it gets. So please, go out and keep her legacy alive. Send a hand-written letter to someone you love or buy dinner for a homeless person. Remind someone that they’re special. Step out of your comfort zone for something greater than you. It doesn’t have to necessarily be big. The little things will do enough justice to keep my beloved Grandma’s legacy alive.