Friday, July 07, 2006


The obituary read:

Olive Lucile (Dean) Hyler began her life on June 12th, 1922 in Pacific Grove, CA. She passed peacefully into eternal life on July 5th, 2006 in her Pebble Beach home, surrounded by her beloved family. A recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer tested her resolve and fortitude but even in her dying moments she met her trials with grace and courage, as she had for the previous 84 years. She lived a full and glorious life on this Monterey Peninsula and will be missed by many...

It went on to say how much she sacrificed for her friends and family; the time and effort she put into making people feel special through her cooking and knitting. It talked about her achievements as members of prominent organizations within our community and how much she enjoyed her recreational activities. It listed a full page of family members she left behind, each with their own story of how this magnificent woman touched their lives. But this is my story. And I simply called this triumph of the human spirit, Granny.

I remember the clink of ice in her heavy crystal glass as she sipped a Johnny Walker Red label, over with a twist and fixed whatever creation we would later drool over at the dinner table. She had a purpose in her movement and didn't fret in the kitchen like some women are prone to. She knew what she was doing in every sense of that phrase. She carried a confidence about her as she stirred steaming sauces and poked roasting meats. I loved to watch her cook. I would stand at her counter and gaze in wonder at how well she orchestrated each meal. Sometimes she would ask me to help, and even the simplest job (mashing potatoes) carried a significance that made me want to do my very best. I wanted her approval.

She taught me to crochet when I was small and I showed her my meager work often for praise and critique. She always had a graciousness about her when she was looking over my shoulder. I never felt condemned or ridiculed, even when she unravelled 2 rows of stitches to get back to a problem needing fixin'. I think the paragon standards she held herself to showed me that excellence is worth the trouble. And I could hear her mutter, "Oh fiddle" when she located a botch in her own work. She humbly pointed it out to me so I could see what she had done wrong and then watched her unravel several rows of her own work. It taught me that I can't expect people to push any further than the expectations I set for myself.

Granny loved to shop! I can see clearly the many trips to San Juan Bautista for a particularly fun garage sale cum antique bazaar that transformed the whole town. We ate Mexican in one of her favorite restaurants and shopped for treasures and junk alike. Whatever she deemed "garbage" was - and whatever was seen as "invaluable" immediately received the same judgement from me. I loved just being around her.

Now, this is not to say that she didn't anger me at times because she certainly did. There were health issues that began percolating in the early 90's and carried through until her death. She became caught up in always answering the question, "How are you," with a slight sigh that could wear on the nerves. Her concerns for money matters were irritating at times and the way she and my grandfather played on each other's triggers ranged from comical to downright maddening. There are some things I learned from Granny by reverse, seeing the fruition of patterns and decisions I don't want played out in my own life. But they are far and few between the good character of a woman who loved her family dearly.

I have a few trinkets that I will treasure from her. Just recently Christopher and I were praying about getting a large dinner table to fit our increasing family's needs. A nice wood 10-seater is no small amount of pocket change. My mom and Granny talked about the possibility of trading my current table (which was my grandparent's also) with theirs. Only a couple of weeks before she passed away I got the word that I could have the solid oak rectangle table that seats 10... easily. The memories I have of sitting at that table and eating her food are precious and now she has given me the opportunity to see them every day in my own home. That was just her way.

Other family members have other stories to tell about her, and they are all beautiful pictures in their own right. Mine is special to me and includes our conversations, drives, holidays and such. I am so blessed to have the heritage of a woman who loved her family and sacrificed for them. It doesn't change the fact that I miss her dearly.

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

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