Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Grandpa Gwen's Last Memorial Day

This is one of my least favorite pictures of my grandparents - but it is as they looked shortly before my grandmother died in 1985.  This is Gwen Shearer and Capitola Ester Friddle Tannahill Shearer!
We have always made a big deal out of Memorial Day in our family.  It was a time of work, visiting and family...that usually involved visits to the cemetery.  You might say that those memories helped me enjoy family history even more than I already do...because I remember those stories and there aren't a lot of family members who do anymore...because those are some of the graves that I visit.

My grandmother, Capitola Friddle Tannahill Shearer (FAG  #38384311) died in August of 1985 and she is buried up at Lewis Clark Memorial Gardens in the Lewiston Orchards (Lewiston, ID).  Shortly after she died, Grandpa Gwen asked my mother if she would like to have her father and brother (Bab Boy Shearer - stillborn - FAG #132465265) moved up to be next to Grandma Cappy.  Richard Tannahill (FAG #38384361) was my mother's natural father who died when she was six years old.  He was also Grandpa Gwen's best friend.  Mom said that when she was a child, she could always talk to Grandpa Gwen about her father.  Grandpa Gwen and my Mom ended up having a special Father/Daughter relationship.  I know that he is my step-grandfather - but he is the only grandfather that I have known.  When Grandpa Gwen asked Mom if she wanted her father moved to lie beside Grandma, I think it was something that she really didn't know she wanted.  So, the arrangements were made.  The funeral home even asked Mom if she wanted to be there when Grandpa Richard was exhumed...Mom said "Absolutely not!!!"

I have never forgotten Memorial Day in 1986.  My mother went all out - she gathered all of the funeral containers from Grandma Cappy's funeral and filled them with the roses that we already had blooming.  When we picked Grandpa Gwen up and went to the cemetery, you could tell that it was especially emotional for him.  I wasn't used to seeing that side of him, so it really made an impact. We set up a chair in front of Grandma's grave so he could sit, and then Mom went to work. Once we had finished decorating Grandma Cappy's grave, the baby's and Granny (Nettie Pearl Moody Shearer FAG# 62326075) and Pop Shearer (Floyd David Shearer FAG#62326029), you could tell that there was a comforting look of satisfaction on his face.  He then made the statement that "it was how it should be...Mama (Grandma Cappy) should have both of us with her!"  Grandpa Gwen then added "but there is no hurry to get there!"  I think that the month of May had been an especially difficult month in many ways.  My brother had graduated from college and I had begun my first year of college.  My grandparents had given us the opportunity to go to college without having to worry about the money to pay for it.  They also helped with a scholarship with Dist. 241 in Idaho Co., ID that gives one student out of each school a scholarship to the University of Idaho and to date there has been over 90 students who have gone to school with the Shearer Scholarship.  (See Graduation Day) The University of Idaho graduation of 1986 not only included my brother but some of those first students who had received the scholarship.  It was a bittersweet day because Grandpa Gwen had lived to see that day and attend that graduation, but my grandmother had not.

After we had gone and taken care of the graves down at Normal Hill Cemetery - (see OK, Pop, Turn Over and The Gravestone) we went out for an early dinner.  Grandpa Gwen decided to splurge and have a steak.  He really didn't have that great of an appetite, but he certainly made a good stab at it...and although there was steak left, that was probably one of the best meals he had had in quite some time...and the rest went home in a doggie bag.  It had been a good day.  He felt that the graves looked good and was satisfied with the day and perhaps life.

That was the last Memorial Day he was alive...he died in January of 1987 and perhaps that was one of his last really good days.  Grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimers later in 1986 even though we suspected that he had had it a long time.  Mom and I used to make custard for him to have for breakfast.  We started out with bowl that he could spoon out the custard with...and then we had single custard cups, since he couldn't remember how to spoon it out.

Today it is my father and I who take care of the graves.  We have my mother, her parents, her grandparents and my father's parents and grandparents as well as several aunts, uncles, a few cousins and friends.  Almost all of them represent something special to me.  So Memorial Day for me is a chance to still tell stories and spend some time with my family.  It is certainly a duty...but also something that I choose to do.  If I didn't, I think my mother would come back and haunt me!