Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

A Tribute To Grandma

My Grandmother on my Mother's side -- Myra Lamar Bingham, passed away this last weekend.  She lived a day past her 97th birthday.  The picture below was taken two Christmas' ago when she lived with my Mother.  For the last year she was in a care center/hospice.  I was very fortunate not only to have her as a Grandma, but to be asked to be the first speaker at her funeral today.   I struggled with what to say.  When I got to Salt Lake City last night I took my laptop up into the canyon and sat at a picnic table near a stream and thought about her.   It was easy to write once I started -- but harder to deliver at the funeral than I thought it would be.  And while she is gone, she will live on in our hearts and memories, and in the person I have become in my life.

I think my second cousin Kay said it best about Grandma – “such a tiny lady, but what a huge hole there is in our lives now with her gone.”  I often wonder myself how did such a big spirit get into such a tiny body?  All of us – my cousins and I who grew up with our “Grandma B” -- recognize what I’m talking about.  She was the matriarch of an amazing family, and I know she was proud of all of us – from her kids, to her grandkids, to her great and great-great grandkids.

Her little house at 3020 Crescent Drive, to me, was always “Grandma’s House” – indeed it was the only Grandma’s House I ever really knew since my Father’s parents lived in a doublewide trailer, and we didn’t see them nearly as much as we saw Grandma B.  Some of my earliest memories as a little kid were going over on Sunday evenings and watching “Wonderful World of Disney” – in COLOR nonetheless -- since they had the first color set I ever saw.  I remember the big apple tree out in the back yard, and a funny little swing with a round disc seat that was uncomfortable and hard to stay on.  And going over around Thanksgiving to draw little slips of paper out of a bowl with the name of a cousin on it for the gift exchange at the annual Bingham family Christmas party. In those days it was just a handful of us, and it would be at Grandma’s house – and look at how that has grown now to where we gotta have it in a ward house!

I remember many a dinner around the table, just me and her and Grandpa before he died.  I love fried chicken.  Good fried chicken.   Now you’d think that a woman who grew up on a farm would know how to make good fried chicken wouldn’t you?   But by golly not her. (Sorry about this Grandma!)   Her’s (and to the same extent my Mom’s) fried chicken was…well I used to tease her by calling it “Mother Binghams’ Secret Recipe Arid Dry Fried Chicken.”  And with a twinkle in her eye --or maybe a glimmer of revenge, I’m not quite sure which -- she’d get a little huffy at me. 

And I guess she got her revenge a few years later one Christmas.   We all know that Grandma had a wicked sense of humor and could tease with the best of them.   About 10 years ago at Christmas we were sitting around my Mom’s house and she slipped a little package to my former Husband Tony during the gift exchange.  This was not her usual little “slim” package with a crisp $10 bill in it (and even at 50 years old that’s always a treat).   We were all curious about it and when it came time for him to open it up, she sat there all innocent looking, halo over her head glinting, and glancing over shyly.  Well, the little package contained a copy of that traditional baby photo -- of me booty butt naked laying on a bear skin rug.   She said to Tony “you probably already have seen this…”  The entire room roared, while I blushed and shot her a look, only to see a little twinkle in her eye -- or maybe a glimmer of revenge – I’m not quite sure which.

I consider myself the luckiest of her grandkids, for when I was about 12, to earn a little money, I “GOT” to go over and mow Grandma and Grandpa’s lawn.  I’d take the bus down and get off on Highland Drive, walk over and mow once a week or so.  I’m sure I didn’t do a very good job with that old green Lawn Boy mower and the slope and trees and roots in that old yard, but they never complained.  And I was rewarded with a couple of bucks, and a nice cold bottle of Coke – which was an extra special treat as it was forbidden at our house – and I’d spend time talking with Grandma and Grandpa, and we’d eat a fresh tomato out of her garden, or some cucumbers with ice and a little vinegar.  That experience was a defining moment in my life – learning the value of work and reward -- of family and love -- and the independence of taking the bus by myself to their house, and I know it’s part of what makes me who I am today.

About a month ago I was riding back to Seattle on one of my cross country motorcycle trips, driving across Wyoming heading towards Salt Lake.   I was battling a 50 mph head-wind as I rode West -- which on a motorcycle is not a lot of fun.  I stopped in Rock Springs for a rest and to check the weather down the road.  It was atrocious into Utah, so I decided to stay in Rock Springs waiting for it to clear.  But as I was heading into town I passed a turn off marked “Superior”.  For those of you who don’t know, Grandma B lived in Superior for a few years when she was a little girl – her Father was the superintendent of a large coal mine there.  Being the wandering explorer that I am, I figured I’d go up there since I was going to wait out the weather a day or so.   I found a small almost forgotten ghost town these days, very windswept as the high plains of Wyoming can be, and just sat there on my motorcycle and imagined Grandma as a little girl living there.  I took a lot of pictures and when I got to Salt Lake a few days later she and I sat in her room at the care center looking them over.   She held my hand and told me about the town and what it was like back in the 1920s, with that twinkle in her eyes and sly little smile.  She’d not been back since they left when she was a little girl, but she still remembered. That last visit with her, holding her hand and looking at the pictures is one of the most precious memories I have of my Grandma B.

What a life she lived, from a little girl in Farmington, to a wind swept coal mine in Superior, to a  dairy farm in Clifton to the big city of  Salt Lake – think about the changes she saw and lived through!  And look at what a family she created.   That’s the testament to her life – that all of us here had a Grandma like her.  That little lady with the huge spirit created something wonderful that will live on forever, just like she will in our hearts and minds.

And Grandma – I hope the good Lord teaches you how to make good fried chicken up there – so one day we’ll have a big ole Bingham family reunion, with you and Grandpa and Tim the dog – a big apple tree with a swing in the back yard, a 65 blue Mustang in the driveway, and fresh tomatoes from your garden.  

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