My Grandma's Promise
Contributor: cindykay1 Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Growing up, one of my best friends was my Grandma Dorothy Folkman Harvey. When I was born, she was serving a mission in Boston, Massachusetts. My Grandpa Harvey had passed away in September of 1980, and my grandma left on a mission the following February. She came home one year later and moved from Pocatello, Idaho, to American Fork, Utah, to be closer to my family.
I was sick as a baby and couldn’t keep food down. My mom tells me that my grandma spent hours trying to hold me still to help keep me from spitting up. My grandma and I must have started our bond then.
Since my grandma lived close by, I spent a lot of time with her as a child. She babysat me while my mom ran errands and made sure my four older siblings got wherever they needed to be. I loved being at my grandma’s house. Going over there was magical for me.
She baked amazing food, always had a stash of Honeycombs, played games with me, and let me watch Nickelodeon, as long as it didn’t interfere with one of her favorite shows General Hospital, One Life to Live, or the Lawrence Welk Show. I blame her for any poor taste in TV shows that I have.
More than anything, I loved talking to my grandma. I think this is how I learned to love having one-on-one conversations.
My grandma and I talked for hours on end. I asked her many questions. Given I was a young child, I’m sure I asked her questions that were difficult for her to answer. I asked about her family growing up, her mom, dad, and siblings. Her older sister, at two years old, had died when the family home caught on fire one night. My grandma was just a baby. Her mom and dad were able to get her out but couldn’t get to her sister in time. I wanted to know if she felt bad that she had survived when her sister hadn’t and if she believed they would ever see each other again. She let me know that she believed that families are forever.
When she was ten years old, her dad had died. I always wanted to know what she remembered of him, what he was like, and what life was like growing up without a dad. She went to work right after his death. This is when she learned to bake. She helped her grandma prepare meals for crews of men working on nearby roads.
I asked her if she missed my grandpa and if she wanted to see him again. I also asked her why she didn’t have my mom until she was almost forty.
She explained how her ancestors had come to the U.S. Some of them had crossed the plains with the pioneers and helped clear the sagebrush when they settled near Plain City, UT. She told me what it was like to live during the Great Depression. She used to sing when she was younger and remembered having a beautiful voice. She sang songs to me and would hit a few perfect notes before her voice would start to struggle. I always asked her if she would sing a solo in church thinking that would allow her to sing beautifully again.
She listened to music with me. Big band music was her favorite. She introduced me to Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. According to her, music had gone downhill since that time. I can’t remember when her vintage wood cabinet with a built-in record player and speakers stopped working, but I inherited it. One day it will work again.
I loved my grandma and always wanted her in my life.
I must have been quite curious about death. I’m assuming that after she’d told me about some of the deaths of those she loved like her dad, sister, and husband, I must have become concerned that she would die too. I knew she was older and that it could happen at any time.
I had many sleepovers at my grandma’s. Each time she tucked me in for the night, I would ask, “Will you still be here when I wake up?”
She would always say, “I hope so.” I made her promise that she would be.
I would then ask, “Grandma, when are you going to die?”
She always responded, “After I see you go on a mission.” She promised she would at least be around that long. Her answer gave me some peace of mind that she would still be around for a while longer. It must have motivated me to want to serve a mission too.
As I grew older, I spent less time at my grandma’s house and more time doing other things. I didn’t need her to babysit me anymore. I still went over to her house, and we would have conversations that lasted for hours. Her health also became more unstable. I remember rushing down to her house with my dad in a panic because she had fallen and couldn’t get her nose to stop bleeding.
I was concerned about my grandma and worried that she wasn’t going to be able to keep her promise to me. I wasn’t ready for her to go yet but knew I had no control over the matter. I hoped, wished, and prayed that she could make it until I left on my mission. I wonder if she was praying for the same thing.
The day arrived, and I received my mission call to Tahiti. My grandma was still here. The day before I spoke in church my grandma had a stroke. More than anyone, I had wanted her to be there. At least she knew I was going. Not thinking my grandma would be able to hear me speak, I was speechless as I saw my aunt pushing my frail grandma into the chapel in her wheelchair. I couldn’t help but cry. She had been determined and had kept her promise. I thanked God for this tender mercy.
I went on my mission and thought that my grandma would pass while I was gone, but she didn’t. She must have wanted to see me come home from my mission too. She was there when I returned. On the Fourth of July, 2003, only months after my return, my grandma was the Grand Marshall in a small neighborhood parade where my parents live. She sported her fancy black sequined dress, wore a tiara and waved cheerfully as she was pushed down the street in her wheelchair, despite the skin tear she’d acquired that morning. She was thrilled. This is one of my favorite memories of her.
Most nights I checked on my grandma’s room at my parents’ to see if she was still breathing. One night I came home from hanging out with friends and walked into her room to check on her, she took her last breath. I was grateful I got to be there with her like she had been there for me.
I was asked to give the dedicatory prayer for her grave. This is the greatest honor I have ever had in my life.
She had worked hard for her family and she had loved me, expecting little in return. She showed me why it is important to believe in God. I never saw her as old or out of touch. I saw her as a strong woman who had endured great trials. She knew a thing or two about life. She was wise, loving, strong, compassionate, and faithful. She was a fighter. The experiences she shared with me from her life made me trust what she’d taught me. She always expressed gratitude for her blessings. She was grateful in the shadow of adversity. She made me feel like everything she’d gone through had been worth it, so she could spend a few years with me.
I remember that all I am blessed with and all of the opportunities that I have are possible because of sacrifices she and my other ancestors had made.
To me, my mom is my grandma’s greatest contribution to this world. Though my grandma and mom are very different, my grandma’s wisdom, love, strength, compassion, and faith live on through my mom.