Monday, June 22, 2009

Auntie Lo..1912-2009

I thought about cutting and pasting and rewriting this eulogy that Auntie Lo's oldest Grandson Dan gave at the funeral and then I decided it was just to perfect to monkey around. He gave his permission to pass it on so I am taking that privilege and printing it here.

Most of his memories are also mine and all of the cousins lucky enough to spend summers on the farm, the chicken dinners and the homemade ice cream. The cousins would take turns turning the paddle just to get the chance to lick it later.

Dan did marvelous job in his send off and here it is.

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The year was 1912. New Mexico and Arizona became the 47 and 48 states to join the union. Robert F Scott reached the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen had gotten there first. The Girl Scouts of America were organized by Juliette Low and the glorious luxury liner “The Titanic” sank on her maiden voyage. In November Woodrow Wilson would be elected president. But I’m getting ahead of myself. On the first Thursday in June of 1912 two significant events occurred.

First, Mt Novarupta erupted in Alaska spewing more than thirty times the ash of the Mt St Helens eruption of 1980. It would be the largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century. And second, in a quiet loving home near Webb, Iowa Lois Thelma Eaton was born to John Freeman Eaton & his wife Emma Alice Damstrom Eaton. She too, would leave her mark on this world.

Lois married Claude Tipton O’Clair on July 7, 1929. They lived most of their married life in Fostoria where Claude farmed for Wayne & David Simington. They had four children: Claude Darrel, Richard “Dick” Arlan, Joyce Jeanette and Valerie Jane.

I am her eldest Grandson Dan or “Danny” as she always called me. Claude Darrel O’Clair is my father. My earliest recollection of my Granny is when she and grandpa would make their annual fall pilgrimages to visit us in Montana. I am told of course that even before my memories she would hold me and at night I would stare with fascination at the moon. I so enjoyed Granny’s visits; fresh eggs and ham and bacon from the farm, cookies from Great Grandma Em and most of all love from Granny! I remember as a young boy telling her, “I’ll never get too big to sit on your lap.” I last sat, quite gently and with just a little weight, on that loving lap in 2004 at the age of 49, just to prove a point, and Granny and I laughed about it just as we did each time I sat there over the years.

I remember visiting Iowa in the summer as a child… pumping water at the pump outside her home… holding baby chicks… picking blackberries in the woods and the special pie she would make just for me in a single serving pie plate… turning the crank, at least in the beginning when it was easy, for homemade ice cream and Granny “rescuing” me from Aunt Valerie’s 4H lamb that came running to me for its bottle! I was sure it was coming to attack me. I climbed on a large stump in the front yard and yelled for help and there came Granny.

Later I remember Granny and Grandpa coming to Montana in the summer to go camping and fishing. Granny loved the outdoors. We would fish and hike during the day and play Scrabble and Yahtzee by the campfire at night. Granny taught me, by example, to appreciate the simple things in life.

Granny loved to cook. For years she cooked at Vacation Village on Lake Okoboji. What I remember most was her desserts. She baked the best pies. Lemon meringue pie with the flakiest of crusts was a personal favorite. The sweet tartness of the lemon custard makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And her pineapple upside-down cake and caramel cinnamon rolls will forever be missed.

I remember when she had hip replacement surgery… she was back on the dance floor in just six weeks! There wasn’t much that would keep that lady down.

I remember when we almost lost Grandpa and how the two of them loved each other through his final year.

After Grandpa passed Granny traveled. She took numerous bus trips and spent a few winters in Mesa, Arizona. One of her favorite spots in Arizona was a restaurant called Rustler’s Roost. You enter the building upstairs and go down a slide into the dining area! That was Granny, always up for a good time. She also enjoyed traveling to Washington state to visit her daughter Valerie and her family.

I remember the year she visited me and my young family in Louisiana. She bought my oldest son a bicycle for his sixth birthday and his four year old little brother threw such a fit we had to go back to town and buy him a bicycle too!

As time marched on her health began to decline. First, she had to give up driving. Few of us realize how hard that is until it is taken from us. We are no longer free to come and go as we please. We have to wait for rides from friends or bus schedules to go places. Still she continued to stay actively involved at the Senior Center where she loved to play cards. Finally she had to give up her independence. That which we so take for granted, until one day aging begins to close in upon us and the simplest of tasks now become a list of “chores” for another to perform for us. Thankfully, Dick and Karen and their family were close by. On Granny’s ninety-first birthday in 2003 she told me, “I never asked to be here this long. My body is shot, my headlights are out, but my engine is still running strong.” In later conversations she would often question why she was still here, why God wasn’t ready for her, and with longing in her voice ask why she just couldn’t go… Well she finally got her wish.

Monday, June 8 Granny let go of the steering wheel and that engine finally gave out ending a life that had a profound impact on who I am. Granny wasn’t perfect, none of us are. But she was a strong woman. Determination and opinion burned deep within her soul. She was the stuff that character is made of. She helped to shape who I am and who my children are and who their children are and will be. If you are here today Granny/Lois O’Clair had an impact on your life too. She left her mark on this world alright… just take a look around you.

Yes today is filled with sorrow for our loss, but let it also be filled with joy for a life well-lived… a dear sister and aunt, a loving mother, an awesome grandmother & great-grandmother, a kind and caring friend.

She was quick witted and nearly always had a comeback. Granny once said to me about aging, “I am an adventurer. This is one adventure I’ve not been on.”

Well, now she’s off on yet another adventure.

Here’s to you granny! With love from all of us.


Riot Kitty said...

I am sure she's having an adventure wherever she is. What a neat lady.

Chris said...

OH my, I many like memories of all who have gone before, and I grieved all over again!

Green tea said...

Thanks Flash for adding the picture..
it's how I will always remember her.

D said...

She even looks like a character! You were lucky to have someone like her in your life.