I WROTE THIS PIECE three years ago tomorrow, the day after my grandma died. Considering I took a nearly three-year blogging hiatus shortly after, I find it fitting on the third anniversary of her passing to start putting pen to paper again and start telling stories that have been lost in the translation of the chaos that became my life since hers came to an end.
And I will, dear readers. I will.
But first, I must take a moment to nod my head at this wonderful, crazy, beautiful, strong woman all over again – the one who would want me to model myself after her and not let life changes crush me, but use them to blossom into someone better.
And I am, dear grandma, I am.
You’ve been gone from me for three years and I still miss hearing you threaten to come haunt my ass. And between you and I? I tell our dog “you’re a good kid” just like you did every day. Unless he’s been a “little varmint”, in which he acts appropriately guilty. But I’m sure you already knew all that.
I have no words that could even come close to explaining how wonderful you were, so I’ll go ahead and let your epitaph do it for me.
I’d never really thought of pearls before, those shiny globes formed inside a sea creatures mouth. An irritant that the oyster protects against by putting down layers and layers of shell-like material until it forms into a bead we string and wear around, physical reminders of the oysters pain and annoyance, displayed as extravagance.
Oysters have an amazing ability to take something painful or hard and turn it into something beautiful. I found out about pearls when I researched a ring that my grandma always wore on the fourth finger of her right hand, a ring that held a stone for each of her babies. Pearls are the gemstone of the month of June. The month that my beautiful grandmother was born in (seeing how much she loved the summer, I’m certain that she hand picked a warm month to arrive in).
June is the name my grandmother went by.
She was a pearl herself – with soft white hands and wise eyes, she knew just the thing to say to comfort her babies both young and old. She was the pearl of our family. Beauty and elegance with just a touch of rough edges (after all, that is how you identify that a pearl is real – if you can find a grit to it that declares it has been through a rough time and come out stronger and more beautiful on the other side. None of this artificial facade that the more smooth stones present).
She was also a pearl maker. She raised her babies as only a mother knew how – with rules of course, but also with love and kindness. There were practical things like teaching them how to milk a cow and turn the cream into butter, but there were loving things like having a baby lamb live inside with them after it’s mother died, owning a wood rat that would bathe with the children, and allowing them to ride, climb, sit on and play with the bull of their cow herd. She would tell me that she wasn’t sure how she made it out alive of raising her kids, but that she truly enjoyed it.
My grandma experienced great things in her life. She also experienced great hardships. Going through her divorce was one of those hardships. I believe she was in her early fifties when it happened.
The name June is derived from the mythical Juno, who “In Roman mythology Juno was the wife of Jupiter and the queen of the heavens. She was the protectress of marriage and women, and was also the goddess of finance.” Grandma was the protectress of marriage and upon finding my grandfathers infidelities she did everything she could to make sure she would wind up on top. She was smart enough that she wound up with the house, the truck, and $200 that she had stashed away. And rather than let it ruin her she thrived. She exercised. She met new friends. Took ceramic classes, painting classes, and maybe a dance class or two (not sure on the last one, but this is where I cry from missing being able to just go ask her). My favorite? She went to college for the first time and got her degree in nursing.
She took her degree and worked at Tiny Tots for a while but her passion was her job at the nursing home. She was never without a story (having her own ornery father living in the nursing home she worked at made for quite a few tales in itself). We would sit for hours and discuss her patients and coworkers.
She worked there for I believe ten years before she retired.
I moved in with her in October of 2008.
At first it was hard (pearls again). We would argue over where I’d put my coat hanger and where I could park. We would fight over what time I should be home (her thinking 10, me thinking that I was old enough to not need a curfew). We fought for three months until she agreed to let me have a dog. I can’t tell you how much Ollie had brought us together. I remember their first meeting. It was like they were meant for each other – although he was skittish with me he ran right up to her, jumped on her lap and started kissing her face. He was our “timeshare” dog and I am so grateful that she was able to keep him during the days. He was our middle ground, the four legged furball that brought us together, our “kid”.
Grandma became my very best friend. I am so grateful that I have hundreds of memories with her. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to live with her, share meals, watch TV together, enjoy warm summer days sitting on the front porch and complain about winter storms from the comfort of her couch. I got three Christmases with her. She was able to attend my wedding. My most vivid memory of my wedding day was when we were leaving. Everybody formed a line and my grandma was at the end. We’d passed out bubbles and she held hers with the widest smile on her face. She rushed to blow the bubbles as we walked by, her hands slightly shaky from excitement. I blew her a kiss while we drove away and she blew me one back.
I blew her a kiss as mom drove her to the ER. I sat by her side those two and a half days as much as I could (and not enough. It could never be enough). I will never forget our last conversations. I held her hand and just cried. I told her sorry for being such a baby. I told her, “You know, moving in with you was the best damn thing I ever did.” She nodded, agreeing in her way. “We always did have the best times together” and she corrected, “do.”
We always DO have the best times together.
She was so tired but she held my eyes with hers for what felt like forever. We just sat there, looking at each other, both thinking about the times we had shared and wishing we could have more. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows, a look I’d seen a hundred times through my life but finally got the meaning of. It meant, “oh well” and “I love you so much”.
I got up and told her I’d see her the next day and told her I love you. She said, “Love you…and the dog” back.
The next day, we knew she was going to leave us. Her body was too sick but her mind was still sharp. We said a prayer and I held her hand and she squeezed my fingers and looked deep into my eyes. I told her it was okay. I kissed her and told her thank you for everything she’d given me. I didn’t, and couldn’t say goodbye. The grandchildren left our sweet grandma in a room surrounded by her lovely daughters where I’m told she just went to sleep.
She’s gone but she’ll always be here inside of me. I love you so much grandma. So very much.
I’d be lying if I said I’m doing better.
I still miss you. Every second of every day.
My breath catches in my throat when I think, “I can’t wait to show you this,” or when I wonder if you need any groceries from the store.
I miss our house. I miss going upstairs every morning, afternoon, and night. I miss the way the dog runs up to you and licks your hands until you laugh and tell him to stop.
I miss your hugs and the way you say, “love ya”.
I miss you calling to remind me that the Jazz are playing. Hell, I even miss you calling to yell at me for not putting the garbage out or for leaving the dryer on overnight.
I just. . .miss you. So, so very bad.
I wish I were strong like you.
You, my dear sweet grandmother, who had the strength to tell them to turn the machines off. You were ready for your “next adventure”. And I am happy for you.
But I’m struggling.
After you first passed I focused on the next task – finding funeral songs, printing pictures, making duplicates of everything. And most importantly, being there for my sweet mother who was missing you at a depth I can’t even imagine to fathom.
But now it’s final.
You are gone. You’re not coming back.
I can’t help but mourn the things we won’t have.
The videos I didn’t take. The stories I didn’t write down.
I’m sad that I can’t surprise you with a Burger King ham croissan’wich.
That we can’t watch medical shows together.
That Ollie no longer has someone to spend the long days with while I’m at work.
That you won’t get to see my babies and love on them.
As much as I hurt and ache and long to have you back, I don’t regret a single moment that I spent with you. I had two wonderful years with you, and those were the best two years of my life. I meant what I said when I told you goodbye. Thank you, thank you for everything you’ve given me and taught me. I love you Grandma.
I STOOD SHIVERING, WATCHING CRYSTALLINE TEARDROPS FORM and fall silently to the ground. Dad’s arm was wrapped around me and his hand held my face to his chest. Warming me. Protecting me from the pain that we were all suffering, those fifty of us standing in a haphazard circle on that bitter winter day.
It’s been two months since that cold January day when we laid my grandma to rest. I don’t talk about her much. I can’t. But I think about her. I dream about her. I miss her on a level that I can’t yet explain with words.
I listened to the grave dedication through the beat of my fathers heart, and I thought I can’t do this, which was precisely the same thought I’d had at the viewing – until my dad, my quiet, strong dad stood up and talked, and I knew I had to follow. For the life of me I can’t remember what I spoke about but I can tell you exactly what he said.
“June could have afforded a lot nicer of a life and a lot nicer of things that she had. We’d always tease her about her shag carpet, but June was proud of every single thing she had. She was totally and completely content with the what she had and I can only hope to be more like that.”
I echo his thoughts exactly – I want to be more like her.
I mirror his speech exactly – I want to be more like him. My dad. The man who never hired anybody to do anything. The man who taught himself flooring, tiling, woodwork, who built my dream room as a kid and fixed my house repairs for me at Grandmas. If he doesn’t know how to do it – he learns. If he doesn’t understand something he researches until he figures it out.
I want more of his creativity. My favorite piece of art in my parents house is a painting of his.
I want more of his words. My dad is the most eloquent, intriguing writer I have ever read. I wish I had that talent (trust me, I don’t possess even a tenth of it).
I love you dad. Thank you for everything that you’ve taught me.
EVERY DAY THAT I LIVED WITH GRAMS, she would read the paper. Every day. She’d grab it off her porch and devour it the moment she’d find it (which sometimes wasn’t soon enough – and so she’d grab her phone and give them the speech which would cause them to promptly deliver her copy).
I asked her once why she did – you see, Grams also watched the news at five and ten (and any other time the news was on if there was something important happening somewhere).
Her answer broke my heart. She said, “I read it for the obituaries. To see if any of my friends have died and to find out if I’m still alive”.
Well Grams, Aunt Maureen passed me the paper today. It was your copy and she told me to keep it.
1929 – 2011
Our beautiful, loving mother Dorothy June Howard Prothero was born on June 24th in Santaquin, Utah to Leslie P. and Blanche Kay Howard. She passed away peacefully on January 8, 2011 in Provo, Utah, surrounded by her children.
June was born and raised in Santaquin and graduated from Payson High School. Her passion in life was raising her five children in their Provo, Utah home where she lived for the remainder of her life. She was an avid Utah Jazz fan and enjoyed spending time with her children and grandchildren. After her children were raised she attended college and earned a degree in nursing. She was employed through Utah State Training School and worked for several years at the Ann Siesta Villa rest home in Springville. She had a very big heart and loved caring for those around her whether they be people or animals.
She is survived by her siblings, Richard Howard, Tim Howard and Dennis (Sunny) Howard and her children LeeAnn (Wayne) Shepherd, Maureen (Dennis) Seamons, Lynn J. Prothero, Karen (Robin) Ewell, and Julie (Mark) Moulton, as well as her 20 grandchildren and 60 great-grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her parents Leslie P. and Blanche Kay Howard, her brother Neil Howard and one great-grandson.
Private services were held on Tuesday and she was laid to rest at the Santaquin City Cemetery. She was the rock in our family and will be forever loved and missed. The family would like to thank the nurses at UVRMC as well as Dr. Michael Pearce and Dr. Heather Harrison for all their loving care.
(I can post it here because well, I wrote it. It’s forever archived here. Nevermind that they messed up and didn’t put her birth year in there. I bet she would appreciate them leaving that out.)