A Life Well Lived

Grandma D

Early on, Tim told me that he wanted our family to camp. He had fond memories of camping trips with his family and he wanted us to create the same kind of memories for our children. The first opportunity presented itself when our daughter was 3 years old – our son, 4 months.

His mother and sister planned a camping trip to Canada. There was a cabin on property owned by Tim’s brother-in-law. It was a small cabin. His sister’s family would stay in the cabin. His mother and our family would tent camp.

(Indulge this Mama for a moment. Isn’t David just the cutest little guy?)

The Persuasion Begins

Tim told me stories of the beauty of Canada, that the lake would be crystal clear, it would be cool there even though it was July. He reassured me by telling me that his sister had camped with young children. Know this: at that point, my total camping experience consisted of a 3 day Girl Scout Day Camp. A DAY camp. Not a try-to-sleep-in-a-tent-camp. A day camp.

I agreed to try. Camping. In a tent. In July. With two tiny children. While nursing. Yeah. To say I was ill-prepared would be a gross understatement.

(OK, I admit it. Even though this was 31 years ago, when I look at the pictures of these tents, I still cringe. Not to mention those shorts. Please. Don’t mention those shorts!)

My mother-in-law was a strong, enthusiastic, outdoor-loving, Norwegian-heritage, wonderful grandma. She made that trip fun for the little ones. She knew all kinds of camping tricks and tips and just seemed to go with the flow. I, on the other hand, was in survival mode.

The crystal clear water that was promised? Maybe it was….under all the algae. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t stick a big toe in the water.

The promised cooler temps? Heck no. Hot as Hades.

But I did what I do. I took pictures. Lots of pictures. And the pictures captured a story that was different than my discomfort. Had to admit that trip – miserable as I was – created shared family memories. A very good thing.

We have talked about that trip through the years. I can still hear my mother-in-law’s laughter as we would reminisce. She always maintained a sense of humor and a zest for life that I greatly appreciate. She could have been very annoyed by my camping disfunction. (She probably was.) But she just did what she does, made the best of it, found ways to make it fun, and laughed.

Ravages of Time
Grandma D was able to visit in 2015 and meet her great-grandson #theadorablechild

Sadly, a few years ago she developed dementia. It progressed to a point at which she required hospice care. A week ago, she tested positive for COVID-19. Although she was asymptomatic, the virus, along with her advanced dementia, proved to be too much.

Yesterday afternoon, spared any suffering, she was set free from the mind that had bound her for so many years. The family is planning a Summer 2021 graveside ceremony in Iowa where her parents are buried. It will be part family reunion and a lot of celebrating the life of the woman who inspired us. She is the one who made those camping trips fun for Tim and his sister when they were kids. She is the one who made the Canadian memories fun. She is the vivacious grandma who set up a sandbox in her living room one summer when it was too hot outside for the littles to play. No, you did not misread that. A sandbox. In her living room.

Dear Dorothy, I probably wasn’t what you expected for your son. I’m a somewhat wimpy Southern girl with no athletic background. I never hesitate to use a heaping cup of Crisco in my biscuits. I had never heard of LipIvo, lefse, kringle, or lutefisk.

You taught me a lot. I see your influence throughout the entire family and because of the experiences you brought into our lives, we have purchased a travel trailer. We plan to hit the road in January and when we do, our first trip will be in honor of you. I hope I can do you justice by making it fun. Making it memorable.

That what you did for us: made it fun, made it memorable. Sweet peace to you. Now you can truly soar.