My Grandma Kallas passed away in the early morning hours of January 1. Her family didn't expect it, but I expect she did. I know she was ready, even if we were not. I was honored to be "her Laura" and I will miss the beautiful light in her eyes until I see her again.
My Grandpa Kallas reminded us of their story at the family visitation the night before her funeral. I always love to hear it. He had first seen Grandma (she was known as simply LaVere back then) when he was in his early teens. Then, he joined the service, and when he returned, he found out she was married. Time passed until one night when Grandpa was at choir practice and it was announced that LaVere's husband had been killed in an accident. Grandpa says his first thought was, "Here's my chance." As he said, once she was "back in circulation," they began dating, and on October 27, 1954, her birthday, he married her and her three little girls. They would eventually have 12 children--7 girls and 5 boys.
I am so very blessed to have grown up closely to both sets of grandparents--just a few blocks from Grandpa & Grandma Joachim and a half hour from Grandpa & Grandma Kallas. My grandparents were all such an integral part of my life--just by being there and sharing every day life moments with me, showing me how to fish, how to grow a garden, how do do wash with a wringer washer, how to peel potatoes, how never to skimp on the sugar in any recipe. . . all treasures I have in my heart. And , I hope to still have many visits with my Grandpa Kallas, who is the youngest 91 year old I know.
My mom tells the story of when I was three months old, I went to stay with my grandparents for the weekend. That was my first Saturday night mass of many with them. Afterward, Grandma told Grandpa that she wanted to stop at the cafe. Grandpa reminded her that she never wanted to stay in town when they had babies. She told him that grandchildren were different. And so they went to the cafe and she laid me on the table and she and her friends oohh'ed and ahh'ed over me. As I grew, Saturday night mass in the choir loft was always followed by a double order of french fries at the D&M Cafe. It remains one of my favorite memories.
Some of the greatest moments of my life were spent in my grandparents' living room (it didn't matter if it was on the farm, in Leola, or Aberdeen, as long as they were there.) Sometimes there would be more family there, sometimes just our family, but we would sit and laugh together until it was time to go back home (but not before we ate at least twice and had plenty of brownies!).
They were just ordinary Sunday afternoons. And they were wonderful.
Christmas Day was always much the same--gathered together in the living room, talking and laughing (and never quietly!) Sometimes on a Sunday or a holiday, an extra person or two would show up. Even though some of us may have wondered why they were there, Grandma never questioned it. There was always enough food and everyone was always welcome in her home.
After high school, I would have the privilege to stay with them for extended periods of time twice--the summer of 1998 after Grandma had broken her heel and I babysat for my baby cousin Derek at the same time, and for 11 weeks in the spring of 2001 when I completed my student teaching in Leola. Grandma and I would have great visits about life during these times. I remember realizing during these visits that her name was not always "Grandma." She was once an 18-22 year old, just like me.
When I asked her to bake a pan of her famous brownies for my last day of student teaching, she was happy to do it. She wasn't happy with how they turned out, however. Even though I assured her they would still be delicious, she didn't believe me and baked a new pan at 3am the next morning. (She never slept well, but I still can't believe she did that.) :) Both of my grandmas are closest to me in the kitchen. Both showed their love through feeding people, and they taught me well.
I am so thankful to have had both of my grandmas for so long. Our relationships changed over the years as I went from a child to an adult to a wife to a mom. Each stage brought new stories and life experience from them. I cannot tell you how many times when it comes to new fads in parenting I have asked myself, "Did Grandma Joachim or Grandma Kallas do it?" If the answer is no, and it usually is, I go with the two most hardworking women I know and keep it simple. They both had their own German expressions that could be translated to "That's ridiculous" when needed. :)
Just as my grandmas told me stories of their grandparents and parents, I will pass the stories of my dear grandparents onto my own children. After all, they were both one of a kind. Have you ever met another LaVere? And my Grandma Joachim was always proud to be the only Olivia in Eureka. So there you have it--proof--one of a kind. :)
These words cannot convey how much my grandparents have all meant to me. Even though I have told them many, many times that I love them, I could have told them a million times and they still wouldn't know how much. The seemingly ordinary days we have spent together have been priceless.