I would like to a moment to tell you about this incredible woman:
This is my Grandma Helen Estelle Stone Smith Baespflug. She passed away on October 27th, 2014 at the incredible age of 98. My Grandma was my hero and I love her very much.
In an effort to get the whole family together (Grandma Helen had 7 children, if that gives you any idea of the amount of people we’re talking about here), the memorial was scheduled months after her passing on what would have been her 99th birthday.
I am now on Day 18 of mono (and think I can safely say I am almost in the clear! Finally!) and luckily made my goal of getting on an airplane last Friday to attend the memorial over the weekend in Tacoma, WA, with the added bonus of having my dear parents nurse me back to health. As much as I wouldn’t let the worry enter my head (I can really only take things one moment at a time since this virus has been plaguing me for what seems like years), I knew that I ran the risk of the stress of air-travel pushing me back a few spaces.
I guess it did.
To my utter heartbreak, I was unable to attend Grandma’s funeral the day after I arrived in Tacoma. I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain in my throat and ears. I couldn’t swallow without gagging and experiencing searing pain in my tonsils. It was clear that I needed to seek medical attention ASAP and spent the rest of the day doing so with my dad. It turns out that I had a bacterial infection on top of my mono (gotta collect ’em all!), which obviously sucks, but the good news is that antibiotics WORK. So I’m on the mend. But I didn’t get to celebrate Grandma’s life with my family members that traveled from near and far to be together. I wasn’t able to be there for my mom in the way I wanted and needed to be. This was really hard for me and I am very sad about that.
So. I’ve been spending the day journaling, remembering, talking with my mom, going through pictures… trying to make the most of this time. It feels nice.
Here are some beautiful photos I (re)discovered at my parents’ house:
I wanted to take this time, during my own time of reflection, to share with you, my friends, my thoughts and memories of Helen. Cause she was so, SO awesome. And you would all love her.
Here are things you need to know about my Grandma:
1.) She LOVED to dance.
My mom told me that she and my Grandpa would go out dancing every week until Grandpa passed. They were incredible.
I also remember Grandma dipping my cousin Michael on the dance floor on his own wedding day (she must have been 93 or 94 at the time) because she wanted to see the young whipper-snappers “dance correctly”. So she strutted up to the dance floor, literally took the lead, forcefully spun Michael around and dipped him. She bowed, turned around on a dime and strutted back to the seated area as the next lady came up to dance with Michael. Classic Helen. You minx!
2.) She LOVED my Grandpa Martin.
My Grandpa was one of the sweetest, gentlest men in existence. I love hearing my mom talk about him. He raised 6 girls (and 1 boy), so I’m pretty sure that automatically makes you a saint. He fought in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart. He passed away my freshman year of high school.
3.) And of course, Helen LOVED her kids. All 7 of them.
4.) She was sarcastic and witty as hell.
This is one of my favorite Helen stories.
After I broke off an engagement post-college (that’s another long story we’ll get into at a later date, okay kids?), my Grandma had some pretty snarky (read as: “spot-on”) things to say to me:
Helen: “Brittney. What is your favorite thing to drink these days?”
Britt: “I don’t know… Coffee. Purple Gatorade? Tea, I guess.”
Helen: “Are you sure it’s not booze?”
Helen: *Hysterical laughter*
Britt: “…okay, yeah.”
Not much longer after that, mid-conversation on (hopefully) a different matter, Grandma stops mid-sentence with a gasp to admire the many rings I was wearing. She quickly scanned my left ring-finger, noted that it was bare and unadorned, then slyly looked up at me.
Helen: “…So. That’s the scary one, huh?” (She says, totally dead-pan. This kind of delivery was her specialty.)
Helen: “You wanna stay away from that one, don’t you.”
Britt: (awkardly) “Oohhh yeah.”
Then, I’m pretty sure, we got up to get wine after that.
Helen: 2, Britt: 0
Well played, Grandma, well played.
5.) She loved putting you in your place. In the most hilarious, loving way possible.
I remember I came over to Grandma’s house with a friend in middle-school, early high-school, maybe, and she had strong opinions about us not entering the house until she was done tidying up. I insisted that “it’s FINE, Gramma, we really don’t care”, and barged my way through the front door. The 90-pound, 80-something-year-old woman forcefully, physically, pushed us back out the front door until she was ready for us to come back in. Which was literally like… 60 seconds later (during which time she opened the door as if for the first time seeing us that day, greeting us with a sweet Granny smile).
6.) Grandma Helen was an exceptional artist.
I think these images speak for themselves. Here are some of my faves:
7.) Grandma Helen should have been a famous costume designer in the Hollywood. (Refer back to #6 — you see what I’m talking about?!)
My mom, aunts, and uncle were all in different incarnations of bands in their youth. Grandma made ALL of their costumes, and there were always new costumes for different sets within a given show. According to my mother, Grandma Helen would make up to 20 costumes per show. I mean, WOW.
So check THIS out:
My mom brought some gorgeous pieces back for me from the memorial that my Grandma made. I wanted you to see what they looked like on a person — not on a hanger — so you could see these pieces in their full glory. But unfortunately for you, this means that you get Super Mono Girl as your model. Ohhhh BABY. Enjoy.
Not to mention, Grandma made all of the girls’ prom dresses in high school! She also made my mom’s wedding dress (and I believe all, or at least most, of my aunts’ wedding dresses). Dayum.
8.) Grandma Helen was the best Grandma ever.
I have so many fond memories of playing the day away at her house and in the large backyard with my cousins. My memories come in little snippets here in there; something strange or simple will jog my memory randomly. For example, I remember I was really obsessed with this bird book that Grandma had. I was just thinking about this the other day for some reason. I was super fixated on the large Snowy Owl that graced two pages of the book in full color. I would sit on the floor of her house or on the swing outside and look that thing for what seemed like hours.
There are far too many memories to write about here. But I just wanted to say that her presence, her home, her humor, all of it, painted my childhood with so many beautiful and vibrant colors.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and love one of my biggest heroes with me. This is the best way I can think of to honor her influence on my life and celebrate hers since I was not able to do so as planned this past weekend. Thank you for supporting me in sharing the things I needed to share.
Below are the last photos I had taken with my Grandma. I love them the most, I think. There is something so fun and free about them. They make me smile.
I love you Grandma and I miss you so much already. Teach me to be like you. Happy 99th birthday. You won Life.