Going Home

My grandma, my mother’s mother and my last living grandparent, died yesterday. She was 93 and passed on peacefully in bed after a good, long life. (This, after my friend’s death last week. Sad.)

She was a devout Catholic of Bohemian descent (her sisters were born there, before it was the Czech Republic), a farmer’s wife who kept beautiful gardens and made mouth-watering meals. The kitchen table would be covered with trays of jam-filled kolache, a Czech pastry, and she never minded when I’d sneak one or three, even when they were meant for the church dinner. She raised six children and lived in the same farmhouse with her husband in Winner, SD until they moved into a nursing home. She survived him by four years.

Going Home

Sedonia Wagner in 1990, at her and Lawrence’s every-five-years wedding anniversary party. This was their 50th.

I was born in Winner, but only lived there one year. When I was young, after my parents and I had moved to California, we’d spend a couple weeks in Winner every summer, and I have wonderful memories of it. It was the only time my father relaxed enough to let me be the spirited, inquisitive kid I was, and I experienced a sense of relief and ease I rarely got anywhere else.

I’d commune with the dogs and farm animals, or keep Grandma company while she did chores. As I got older, but before I could legally drive at home, I was allowed to take myself and my cousins from the farm into town to the drive-in, and no one worried who I was with or how late I’d get home. It felt like freedom.

Then I would sleep and sleep in a sagging bed up a flight of narrow, steep stairs, and no matter when I woke up, whether it was nine or noon, Grandma would be in the kitchen ready with breakfast. Everyone else would have long since started their day and left the house, but Grandma and I stayed in the kitchen. She’d wait until I was done, then get on with her day, too.

I’m driving to Winner tomorrow for her funeral on Saturday. I’ll stay with my mother at her twin sister’s house, and we’ll celebrate Grandma’s life. I haven’t been to Winner in 15 years, and it took a funeral to get me there, so I’m expecting it to be an intense weekend all around. But it will be good to be with my mother and other family I haven’t seen in ages, in a tiny Midwestern town that still claims me as its own, despite the fact that I left early on and never looked back.

Going Home

Morris the Dog and the Road Home

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36 Comments

  1. Lee Woldt January 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    I’m glad you are going to honor and pay respects to your grandmother. She sounds like she was an important part of your life. Closing the circle of life with loving remembrances is important for those left behind as well as a special way to honor the life of someone you loved so deeply.
    Her spark of life and steadfastness live on in you and your Mom and I am sure, others in the family.
    We’ll be thinking of you all …….

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

      Lee – I’m glad, too. I missed all the other funerals of my grandparents, and I still regret it. She was important to me at a time when I especially needed dependable kindness, and she had a quiet strength I’ve always admired. Thank you for the good wishes.

  2. Susan Embry January 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    A very important road trip, Deonne. Blessings to you and your family. Take photos. Document the moment. Write about how this looks, feels and swishes over you. Most of all, be safe.

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

      Susan – Excellent advice, thank you, and for the kind words.

  3. Manisha January 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Even expected passings come as a shock and surprise. I’m sorry to hear this news about your grandmother. She sounds like a warm and caring person, likely to be exactly the person to have around right now. I hope you find comfort and love and more lovely memories as your celebrate her life. I’ll be thinking of you as you make your way north. Much love to you, Deonne.
    Manisha recently posted…blue dragonfly that highlights changes in our lifeMy Profile

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

      Manisha – Thanks, friend. She was a good one, and I’m looking forward to sharing stories this weekend, where there will likely be tears and laughter in equal measure.

  4. Martha January 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    My deepest condolences, Donna. Your grandma sounds a great deal like my own, and they will always be with us in our memories.

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

      Martha – Thank you so much, and it sounds like we both had wonderful grandmas. The memories do take the sting out of the sadness.

  5. Susan Carpenter Sims January 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    So much love to you, Deonne, and a big squeezy hug (and a bottle of wine) waiting for you when you get back.
    Susan Carpenter Sims recently posted…A Backdrop and a Blanket, but not BoringMy Profile

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

      Susan – I’ll take all that, yes please. Thanks, friend.

  6. Janet January 28, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    This is so perfect about how mom was. I remember the breakfast, no matter what time you got up and was the same for me. Those are some of my favorite times with mom. It will be a time for us to remember all the big and little things mom did for us and for so many others.

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      Mom – She was a sweetheart. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s memories of her this weekend. See you soon.

  7. Deborah Dash January 28, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Married 70 years? That is amazing not only because they stayed together (“we were born in a time when if something was broken we would fix it, not throw it away”) but because you have to both marry fairly young and then simply LIVE long enough to accomplish it.

    Drive safely. Commune with your aunts, uncles, and cousins. Celebrate and grieve.

    Rest in peace, Grandma. You were truly a winner in Winner. <3

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

      Deborah – I know, their marriage was amazing on so many levels. Thank you for the kind wishes.

  8. Ron Hagg January 28, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

    What a beautiful commentary and tribute to your grandma. It touched my heart. The great part of this is that you will always have your grandma inside of you – a glowing in kindness. Bless you Deonne.
    ron

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      Ron – Thanks so much. She was a sweet woman, but also a force in her own quiet way, and I’m so happy to have such good memories of her.

  9. Brad January 28, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    My sincere condolences to you and your family, Deonne. Funerals can be tough, but try not to let your final memory of her at that funeral. Remember the childhood experiences and everything that went along with it. Focus on the past and not on the present.

    Peace, Brad

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

      Brad – Thank you. The good memories of her will forever be in my mind, so I’m hoping the funeral will just feel like a final farewell.

  10. Catherine January 28, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    What wonderful memories and what a wonderful thing that you will be able to be back where you made those memories. I had the pleasure of my maternal grandmother’s company ( I am named after her ) after she moved in to live with us when I was 6. I have similar wonderful memories of her steady presence right up until when I moved away. I miss her always. Enjoy being around her in that place that holds such special memories where there was such love.

    • deonne January 28, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

      Catherine – It is a wonderful thing to go back there. What’s funny is I’ve long wanted to write a novel set in that small town so who knows, maybe this sad event will spur it on. I’m glad to hear you had an equally wonderful grandmother in your life.

  11. Terri January 29, 2015 at 4:04 am #

    I’m really sorry to hear about your grandma. She sounds like she was a pretty amazing lady and you had a really good relationship, like she just “got” you. Good luck with the trip home – try to not get overwhelmed with all the emotions you will inevitably feel. But you’re doing a good thing to pay respects to her. And even though the town may not be someplace you lived for long, it’s still a part of you. I know that weird feeling. Again, so sorry to hear about your loss.
    Terri recently posted…Big Changes (News!)My Profile

    • deonne January 29, 2015 at 6:55 am #

      Terri – Thanks for the kind words. I’m weirdly looking forward to the weekend – closure, respect, family. It should be bittersweet.

  12. Emilie Vardaman January 29, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    Even when someone has lived a long and full life, it is hard when then end comes. But you will have family, love, stories, memories.
    Do record as much as you can. I wish so much I’d written down more before my parents were gone. Now those things I didn’t record are gone with them.
    Safe journey.
    Emilie Vardaman recently posted…And on to Key WestMy Profile

    • deonne January 29, 2015 at 6:56 am #

      Emilie – That’s right, it’s still sad even if it was (mostly) expected. I’m taking my journal, my camera, and a sad but open heart. Thanks for the kind words.

  13. Sherry in MT January 29, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    Have a safe trip and accept the healing with your family and celebrate an amazing life of an amazing lady. Now for a few other items – I can’t believe you were born in SD – I was born and raised there and we visited good friends often in Winner believe it or not! LOL
    Sherry in MT recently posted…Lunch Walk and SurpriseMy Profile

    • deonne January 29, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      Sherry – Thank you, and – what? Where exactly were you born in SD? Can’t believe you know Winner.

      • Sherry in MT January 30, 2015 at 6:34 am #

        I was born in Hot Springs and my parents were both born and raised around Wolsey/Huron. We lived in Mobridge for a while and then Rapid City. My Dad was on the Highway Patrol so we knew a lot of the state and had friends all over. I went to college in Sioux Falls and had my first job there. I’ll have to ask my Mom what the friends names were that lived there – if I remember right he was a builder of miniature doll houses.
        Sherry in MT recently posted…Lunch Walk and SurpriseMy Profile

        • deonne January 30, 2015 at 7:26 am #

          Sherry – Good to know, thank you!

  14. Adrian January 29, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    Thank goodness for wonderful, rich memories. Definitely, write them down before they are lost. You’re grandmother did so much to create good times for you. Travel Safely and Be Well! OXOX

    • deonne January 29, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

      Adrian – I agree, and I look forward to hearing others’ memories of her this weekend. Bittersweet. Thanks for the kind wishes.

  15. Susi January 29, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    So sorry, Deonne, but what memories you have! She left quite a legacy; too bad all grandmas can’t be like that. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories, and obviously your gran had a lot to do with the person you are today.

    • deonne January 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

      Susi – I’m lucky to have spent the time with her that I did. She was a gem. Thanks for the nice comment.

  16. Barbara Eisele February 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    Please accept my sympathies in the loss of your grandmother. It is sad to lose our older generation. I hope you are capturing the stories and shared memories on paper and on camera. They will enrich your life as well as the lives of generations to come.

    In the “small world department,” my son-in-law’s grandparents, Don and Mary Shea, had a farm in Winner. His grandmother, also a Catholic and now in her nineties, has given up the farm, but still lives in Winner. I would bet that Mary and your grandmother knew each other!

    I have only been to Winner once, but our daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren live in Sioux Falls, so we make regular trips there to visit. Although cold in the winter and hot in the summer, South Dakota has a beauty all its own.

    • deonne February 6, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      Barbara – Thank you for the kind words, and I agree about saving their stories. It’s so important. And yes, small world! I believe Mary Shea was at Grandma’s viewing. What a wonderful connection we have. I agree about South Dakota’s beauty. I’m fascinated by the Midwest and hope to travel and photograph there much more in the next few years.

  17. Kirsten February 6, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Loved this…

    • deonne February 6, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

      Kirsten – So glad, and thank you.

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