My sister, Kristen, wrote this blog after my grandmother passed away. I read it, bawling the entire time, knowing how true every word was. I called her and told her that all of her memories were the same ones that made me smile about Grandma. I hadn't realized that we both had such amazing memories of her and our childhood. I still don't have the words to write about my Grandma, so I'm stealing her words.
On February 17, 2014, my sweet Grandma, Gladys Marie Klusman, passed away. She is preceded in death by her parents; her brother, and her son, Robert Klusman (my Uncle Jim who passed away last month). She is survived by her husband of 69 1/2 years, Carl Klusman, and her children, Larry and Mary Klusman, daughter-in-law Barb Klusman, Pat and Don Lunbeck, Gary and Kristi Klusman, and Sharon and Jamie Bausher. She is also survived by her sister Helen and her brother Jack. She has 22 grandchildren, and when you add in all the married-in cousins, that's really 33 grandchildren. Plus, she has 30 great grandchildren. When I say I have a large family, it really all started with this women. In just our immediate family, if you count uncles, aunts, cousins, and cousins' kids, it totals 73 people!
It feels weird to say that I was shocked about her passing when she was almost 90 years old, but I was. She had a pacemaker put in the week before but everyone said she was doing great and recuperating well. Sunday evening we learned that she was in ICU with an infection and her kidneys were shutting down. The phone rang a little before 4am and immediately I knew she was gone. I laid there sobbing while Brian held me and I spent two hours replaying my life and all the memories I had of her. I even looked through my phone because I thought there was a recent voice mail from her hoping I could just hear her voice one last time, "Kristen, it's your Grandma," but the message was just 30 seconds of silence. It just happened so fast and I am so sad that I didn't get to talk to her one last time to say goodbye. But while I'm sad that she's gone, I know that she had an incredible full and happy life. Spending the few days with my family in Kansas was a great reminder of her legacy.
Gladys was born March 1, 1924 in Bucyrus, Kansas. She was one of four children and they lived on a dairy farm in a small town. She was rough and tough and loved to run with the boys. She used to tell us stories when we were young that her brother Lindy would sit on top of her and hold her arms and spit in her face - and then she would say, "my goodness he was onery." Which was one of my favorite words she always used. She also used to call the couch the devan, say pop for soda and wash sounded like worsh.
I've listened to my grandparents tell stories about their first date, proposal and engagement a ton of times growing up and the stories never got old. My grandparents started dating when they were 17 - my grandfather asked her to go see fireworks only he showed up with both his parents. But they were quickly inseparable - even working together doing chores on their farms. My grandma told me that she was so sad when my Grandpa enlisted in the army and left for Texas - she said she cried for days. When my Grandpa got to Texas he said he missed her so much that he called my Grandma and said "Gladys, do you remember that you said you might want to marry me? Would you like to come to Texas and get married?" and she said, "Yes, I suspect I do" so she got on a train and went down to marry him.
When Grandpa came home from the war injured and couldn't work on the farm anymore he and my Grandma worked for State Farm for over 40 years. She worked all day and came home and raised five kids. My dad would say that she would come home from work, be talking to you in the kitchen and somehow a 3 course dinner would appear on the table. She was an incredible home maker and her husband and her children were her entire life.
I have the most incredible memories of my Grandma. We moved to Texas when my parents divorced when I was 5 but whenever we vistied my dad several times a year in Kansas we always spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I think the four of us were so close to my grandparents because they were already retired and they had a lot of free time to spend with us. But I also think my Grandma was sad that my parents were divorced and gave us extra special attention and love which was exactly what we needed. One of the things my cousins and I all talked about during the funeral was that Grandma made each one of us feel like we were her favorite grandkid. And that is an incredible thing considering how many of us there were.
We loved staying at their house - there was always so much to do. I'll always remember pancakes and orange juice in little juice glasses for breakfast at the table with the yellow banana chairs in the kitchen. Going out fishing early in the morning and Grandma tying her scarf around her hair that had just been styled. Telling us that we could only have one pop a day but never really sticking to it. Always using our first and middle name whenever we were in trouble and "tsking" at us to stop bickering. Playing golf and swimming at the country club and the time I almost drove the golf cart into the lake before she saved us. Playing restuarant at the bar in their basement. Playing cards and dominos for hours and hours. My Grandma was really good at cards but would never pay enough attention and always throw away wild cards. I love the sour face she would make when she realized she threw away a wild card and it would make us laugh so hard. Going on walks around the neighborhood. Taking naps on the couch. Sitting with her reading her CountryLife and Good Housekeeping magazines (and when I was 16 she sent me a Good Housekeeping subscription because she thought I really loved them). Camping trips to the lake and sleeping in their 5th wheel. Spending time with them on their annual trips down to the Valley. Long distance phone calls and letters updating us on where they were traveling or new additions to the family. Birthday cards with quarters taped on the inside when we were really little, dollar bills when we got a little older and checks when we were much older. I swear she sent me a $25 birthday check until I was 30.
But more than anything I'll miss her hugs and the "I love you's." I think my Grandma's biggest legacy was the way she loved others and taught others how to love. My family are big huggers and I think that started with her. About 30 minutes before we need to leave, Brian will tell me, "start saying bye now" because it takes forever to hug that many people. As any good grandmother would, she loved us unconditionally. She told us she loved us every time we talked to her. You would call her and she would say, "Oh Kristen Marie it's so good hear your voice. I love you. I miss you!" and we when we would hang up the phone she would say, "Oh I love you so much." When we would visit Kansas and leave to go back to Texas, she would cry and tell us how much she would miss us. She was never judgmental, never disappointed in us. When Dane showed up at the funeral with a pink mohawk, it might have been a bit crazy, but I know 100% that my Grandma wouldn't have cared. She probably would have even liked it! Two years ago for Halloween, my grandparents went to Pat and Don's house for a halloween party with their family. When Chad and Michelle picked them up, my Grandma had all these necklaces on. Michelle was worried that her Alzhiemer's was acting up. But my Grandma simply asked Michelle where her costume was, because she had dressed up as a gypsy. Isn't she amazing?
I'm incredibly sad that she's gone for all very selfish reasons. I know how much I'll miss her, her phone calls, the visits, the birthday cards every year. I'm sad that when the time comes for Brian and I to have another child they won't get to meet her. I'm sad that my children won't remember their great-grandma. I'm sad for my dad and his brothers and sisters who lost their mom. But I'm also relieved. Relieved that she's in heaven where there is no Alzheimer's, no Parkinsons, no anxiety, no tears. And I know that I have incredible memories of her that will last me forever.
This picture just sends me into tears every time I see it. This was when Grandma was in the hospital the last week and my aunt and uncle took Grandpa up to visit her. My grandparents would have celebrated their 90th wedding anniversary this September. They've spent very few nights apart in their whole entire life. My grandparents have been an incredible role model for all of us for what a marriage should look like. I have memories of my Grandpa holding my Grandma's hand and giving her a "smooch" while they puttered around the kitchen fixing us waffles for breakfast. When my Grandpa said goodbye to her, he stood next to her casket holding her hand and said, "Oh, you were always such a pretty girl. My pretty girl." To be blessed with that kind of love.
But more than anything I know that she lives on in me. She helped raise me and shape me into the person I am today. Because of her I know that I hug my friends and family and tell them I love them often. They're important to me and I want them to know that. Because of her I hug my children every day, mutiple times a day and tell them how much I love them. Like her I will make my husband and children my most important priority. I hope that as I grow older that I'm surrounded by so many people who love me like she was. She will be missed by so many.
Enjoy dancing in Heaven, Grandma. I know you are happy and taking care of your family up there now. I miss you every day and I can't wait to meet you in Heaven.