Thursday, September 4, 2014

Visiting Grandma: Stilp Family Vacation 2014 - Part Four of Who Knows How Many

This is my Grandma Bernice Klippenes.  Isn't she beautiful? You can tell from looking at this portrait that she is a lot of fun.  She always has a cup of coffee waiting.  And usually some Jello and casserole too.  After all this is Minnesota we're talking about.
My Grandma Bernice Klippenes
There are so many things I love about Grandma's house.  The happy wallpaper.  Her collection of knick knacks that span throughout her home, along her fence and in her yard.  The plush toilet seat that squishes flat when you sit down and reinflates when you stand up.  Her china hutch filled on the inside with her fancy dishes and plastered on the outside with pictures of her grand and great-grandchildren.  Oh and her Micky Mouse phone that she keeps in her front sitting room.  All these things scream, "I'm at Grandma's house and all is right with the world."

the other side of this lawn decoration says "Goodbye."

Grandma married Grandpa George when she was seventeen years old.  Two years later she became a mom to my Uncle George.  My Dad followed three years later.  Then three years after that, my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Shirley - born eleven months apart!

Grandma and Grandpa lived in Hoyt Lakes, a small mining town in northern Minnesota.  Grandpa labored in the coal mines, volunteered as a fire fighter, and worked the family farm in Brainerd (located 162 miles south) on the weekends and in his spare time.

Grandma raised their brood of kids and worked as a clerk at Ben Franklin, a drug store in Hoyt Lakes.  She is one feisty lady.  You don't want to mess with Grandma.  One time she caught a teenage boy stealing paint from the toy section.  It was early in the morning and Grandma was the only clerk in the store with the exception of the pharmacist.  She marched up to the kid and said, "Hand it over."  The kid replied, "Mind your own business," so she smacked him upside the head with her hand.  She hit him so hard he fell into a display case and the pharmacist came running.  Needless to say that boy did not walk out of Ben Franklin with a stolen paint set.

Years later Grandma and Grandpa moved back to Brainerd.  Grandma had a brood of grandkids by that time and she took a job as a shoe clerk at Montgomery Ward.  One day she busted a man stealing shoes.  He put the new pair on, put his old ones in the box, and was about to walk away.  Grandma stopped him and demanded the shoes back.  He threw a hissy fit, cussing her out and being belligerent. He hollered at Grandma, "I'll meet you out back."  She responded by telling him what time she got off and where she would meet him!

The story gets funnier cause Grandma actually showed up and there was the would-be-thief!  She said, "Now what are you going to do about this?"  He started menacing and then Grandpa showed up in his pickup truck.  The kid skedaddled and Grandma was victorious again.  When I asked her about it today she said through laughter, "Your Grandma used to be pretty feisty.  I figured he might have eaten me for dinner, but I'd have thrown the first punch!" 

Grandma and Grandpa went to church regularly most of their lives but didn't hear the gospel about Jesus and why it mattered to them personally.  Grandma asked her pastor once but he kind of side-stepped her questions.  She wasn't happy with his answers so, "they stuck with it until they figured out why it all mattered."  Don't you love her tenacity?

The Figuring Out happened when their church hosted an evangelist.  He explained to them that we all have sinned and are separated from God. Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, and offered himself on the cross.  He willingly took our punishment for us so we could once again be in a relationship with God and walk in the freedom of a new life in His kingdom.  Grandma and Grandpa both said yes to following Jesus and their lives were dramatically changed.  Soon their kids - who were in high school and elementary school at the time- made decisions to follow Jesus too.

Out of this decision, a new legacy was born.  The Klippenes family is now marked by multiple generations of men and women who love and serve Jesus.  How cool is that?

In February of 2013 Grandpa George graduated to heaven.  Grandma and Grandpa missed their 68th wedding anniversary by a matter of weeks.  We all miss Grandpa terribly, but I know Grandma misses him the most.

Grandma and I talk once a week on the phone, usually on Monday's.  Grandma ALWAYS answers the phone if she's home.  She even has a land line installed in the garage so if she's puttering in the back yard she can get to the phone in time.  It's another little quirk about her that I find totally endearing.

Grandma has been honest about her grief.  And so brave and courageous moving forward without Grandpa by her side.  I'm so proud of her for pressing on.  For enduring through the depth of her pain and continuing to find joy in each day.  She's so resilient.

When we were in Minnesota this summer we got spend an afternoon with Grandma.  It was the first time I had visited since Grandpa passed away and his presence was noticeably missing.

Grandma was all dressed up in her happy flower top and blue pants.  She served us coffee and posed for pictures with all of our kids even though she does not like getting her picture taken.  She even smiled!

Alli in particular REALLY liked Grandma.  She hovered around her, stroking her cheek, holding her hand, and helping Grandma.  They rode together to Aunt Shirley's house and Alli kept whispering to me, "I REALLY like her Mom.  She's so awesome. And I think she likes me too!"

After our time at Grandma's house, we caravanned to Aunt Shirley and Uncle Jim's house for a good old fashioned backyard BBQ.  We ate in their screened-in porch (since the mosquitos and flies in Minnesota will carry you away if you let them).  Chatted it up and watched the kids move from one activity to another in the backyard.  They loved playing with Tate (their second cousin) and he showed them all around his house.

Together they skateboarded.  Played baseball.  Dug in the sandbox.  Played on the swing set.  Posed with the fake deer and pretended they were hunting.  Practiced their casting for fishing.  It was really fun.

Before we left, I forced nicely asked everyone to pose for a family picture.  And they complied.

Once we said goodbye we stopped at the small cemetery where Grandpa is buried.  We were able to pay our respects at his graveside and celebrate what a mighty man of God he was.  When my brother Shane was last in Minnesota he left a fire fighter's token at Grandpa's grave.  It was still there.

"It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone.  For part of us went with you, the day God called you home."
When we were still new to Newberg and looking for friends, I joined a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group.  These women provided much needed friendship for me and my kids.  One year I was given a key chain that said "Never Alone."  It was meant to serve as a reminder in those dark, lonely, rough moments of mothering that there is hope and I am not alone.  It was only fitting to leave it with Grandpa.  I put my keychain next to Shane's fire fighter token, shed quite a few tears, and headed back to the car.
I miss you Grandpa.

Grandma, I love you like crazy.

Thank you for the weekly phone conversations and all the things that make you uniquely lovable and awesome.  I love you!

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