Tribute to Grandma Phyllis

Grandma smiled. She listened. Her voice and her laugh were gentle, like her. She radiated love. You were drawn to her. In her company, you’d find acceptance, compassion, a shoulder to cry on, a friend who listened, sympathy, encouraging words, and a smile. Always a smile.

One of my earliest memories of her was when she and Grandpa Bonnie would come to Evansville and bring their black lab, Gypsy. I couldn’t wait to sit beside her. I was fascinated with the kindness and gentleness in her voice. I loved all of my grandparents, my family, and friends, but I had never known anyone who spoke with such a sweet and loving tone. I remember sitting beside her on the patio swing and her handing out Juicy fruit chewing gum to us. I wanted to soak up every moment with her. Early on, I recognized that she was a unique individual in this crazy world.

I remember being jealous of my cousins in Indianapolis, who could see her whenever they wanted. In fact, she was who I thought of the one time I wanted an escape from my parental units. I was probably about seven-years-old, maybe eight. All I know is, I had been sent to my room by Mom, possibly a punishment I deserved, but who really knows. Being the middle child is a lot harder than you’d think. 😉 So anyways, I’m in my room on Scenic Drive, and I am fuming from the injustice of it all. Mom just didn’t understand my point of view. Instantly, I knew who would understand. There was a phone in my room. And I made the decision right then. I was running away. I’d heard enough horror stories of kids being abducted by this point though, and I’ve always been sort of a chicken or the weakest link in the sibling tribe, so I decided I couldn’t run away the traditional method. It was too risky. But Grandma Phyllis, if she heard my story, and I knew she’d listen and understand, she’d drive from Indianapolis and pick me up.

The funny part is, I loved my Grandma and Grandpa Standring, and I had their number memorized – and they were right across town-but I didn’t call them. I knew the area code for Indianapolis was 317, and I began confidently. I dialed the first three digits, and then panic struck me. I didn’t know they rest of Grandma Phyllis’s phone number. I clutched the phone in my hand and just willed the numbers to show up, but after a moment I sighed. I hung up the phone, and along with it, my plans to run away. Within moments, a peace filled me, and I was perfectly content being right there at home on Scenic Drive with the family who might not always understand me, but loved me nevertheless. I think the very thought of Grandma and her peacefulness and goodness just comforted me.

When we’d drive up to Indianapolis to visit my grandparents, visiting Grandma Phyllis was the highlight. If you were her grandchild, you may have played with the Fisher Price castle in her basement, you might remember the green glasses she poured orange juice in for you or her teddy bear collection. You probably played checkers with her on her coffee table with the reversable checkerboard table-top. On one of those visits, she taught us how to play the card game Rummy 500. She was good. She smiled at you as she stomped your behind…In cards or ping-pong. But you didn’t mind losing to Grandma. Not when she smiled at you and let out the world’s most gentle and heart-warming laugh.

In 97, when I was finishing high school and was starting college at UE, Grandma retired from the Jet Credit Union in Speedway, and she and Bonnie moved to Evansville. I remember how excited I was. I thought, “Finally, we get her in Evansville!” Those few years we had her in Evansville were filled with lots of laughs, smiles, and of course, food. Grandma fed everyone. I recently read a journal that Grandma kept in 1999. Let’s just say, there is a reoccurring them of my brother, my sister, and myself-plus friends, showing up for playing cards, ping pong in her basement, and you bet- for food. Here are three sibling specific snippets from that journal that made me smile…

“Sam and his friend, Brad, came over and finished putting our ping pong table together. I fed them and baked cookies for them.”

This next entry I thought maybe she accidently wrote my sister’s name instead of mine, but I read it twice. It clearly says Coleen. To be exact, it says, “Coleen came over and visited with us. We love to see her. She is so pretty and so sweet.”

The next one though was definitely an entry about me. Ahem, “Sarah came over, and I fixed her a bacon club.” 😉 I won’t read anymore, but let’s just say that some of us showed up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, more than the others, and were fed fairly often at Grandma’s- according to her journal.

One time I asked Grandma about the story I’d heard of her being held at gun point when she worked for the credit union. A man came in and told her to put all of the money in the bag. Grandma said he had a gun pointing straight at her. I said, “What did you do?” She said, “I looked back at him and said, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me…And he put the gun away and ran out of the bank.’”

I was thinking about it later on. That guy probably heard the same angelic voice that I had all those years and looked at the nicest lady he’d ever met and thought, “What am I doing? I can’t rob her!” Just by being her sweet, gentle self, she changed his path that day.

I wonder if we all tried to be kind and gentle like Grandma Phyllis, how the lives of those we come across each day would be better.

People have always talked about my grandma’s beauty. My whole life people have said things like, “Your grandma is so beautiful,” or, “your grandma was so beautiful,”- talking about how she was when she was younger. Even in the nursing home, a lady said to me, “You look a lot like your grandma, and that’s a compliment. Some people say she used to be the most beautiful woman around.” First of all, being compared to her at all I took as a compliment. And yes, I always thought she was beautiful. But more than any physical outward beauty, to me, her beauty was the way she treated those around her. So many Bible verses make me think of her, but one that comes to mind often is Proverbs 16:24. It says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” For the forty years I knew Grandma, her words were certainly that…sweet to my soul…and to anyone else’s who was paying attention.

In the final months, one of my favorite memories with Grandma was when Uncle Marvin and Reta would show up on Sunday, and we’d all take Communion together. I was reminded in those moments that Grandma was a woman of faith, a child of God, and we’ll be communing with her again, one day in Heaven, -only she won’t be suffering at all then. She embodied kindness and grace, and left a trail of encouragement, compassion, and love for all who were blessed to meet her. From the would-be bank robber to people like you and me, she impacted lives. I know I’m not alone in saying, we will miss Grandma, we’re thankful for the lessons she taught us, and we’re thankful we had her for so long. The memory of her alone will always make us smile and encourage us to be better people, one kind word, one smile, one moment at a time. I look forward to the day I’ll see her again in Heaven.

 

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A tribute to the best man ever…

Sonitrol

My Grandpa, “Doc Standring”, passed a week ago today. My heart is still heavy and the tears are still coming. Since Grandpa was a huge supporter of my writing and my blog, I thought I’d post the words below I said at his funeral. My dad spoke as well, and he stood beside me while I shared my memories, for which I am so thankful. The few paragraphs in black ink are parts that I did not share at the funeral but thought people might like to read. Everything I said aloud is in blue. My family and I are thankful for all of the notes and kind words we have received over the past week. As we saw at the visitation and funeral, Grandpa was loved by so many people. God bless…Sarah  

I’m not a fan of public speaking. I have a history of breaking down in tears in front of groups as I am a bit of an introvert. But I can’t let this day pass without sharing some of my memories of the best man I have ever known. You probably called him Doc. I called him Grandpa. Sometimes, I called him Abuelo, the Spanish word for Grandpa, and he called me Sarita, the Spanish nickname for Sarah. He was my first inspiration to study Spanish. Grandpa was a constant source of inspiration to me. 

If you’re here right now, you know what he was like. He was intelligent, interested in learning more about everything, from technology to foreign languages to cooking. He was a hard-worker. He played the bagpipes. Not only was he a dentist in the Navy, he had his own practice here in Evansville. He was a proud founder of Sonitrol and opened his company here in 1969. He spoke to me often of our family ties to the co-founder of Sonitrol, his cousin Bob Baxter.

Grandpa loved his family and was interested in where we came from. He spent years collecting genealogy information on both sides of my family tree. He and my late grandma Marilyn even visited some of our distant relatives in England, the Standrings, and in recent years Grandpa was in constant contact with another one of our distant cousins, Almuth, in Germany. She helped him fill in some of the blanks of his ancestry study. One of the emails he sent me recently detailed some of the information about one of my ancestors, Bertha… In his email he wrote:

Hola Sarita, Here is some more information about one of your ancestors. Bertha was born in Ostfreisland, Holland near the German border in 1838.  At age 12, in 1851, she left with her family from Gross-Midlum, Germany and traveled to Baltimore.  The six weeks voyage was very hard and the ship came dangerously close to an iceberg.  The captain called everyone on deck to pray for a safe passage.

Grandpa worked hard to organize our ancestry for us, and I loved getting those emails.

As you know, Grandpa brought laughter and smiles to every room he entered. He had a lot to boast about, yet he never did. He was very humble. Instead of talking about himself, he had a knack for making others feel special.

For as far back as I can recall, Grandpa told me stories over and over about how he’d gotten such a kick out of my younger years. He’d say “Say-rah Lou”, or Sarah Louise, I remember when you were a baby. And you cried all of the time. But all I had to do was carry you outside, and you’d look up at the trees and get real quiet.

I was born on Flag Day, a lesser-known American holiday. Every single birthday, Grandpa would bring me my present along with a small USA flag and say Happy Birthday, Sarah Louise, and Happy Flag Day.

Everyone knows how he’d say, “You breed rabbits you get rabbits. “ Every time we did anything ornery growing up, which we are Standrings, so you know we did, sure enough he’d say it.

He’d entertain me and my siblings with jokes that many of you are familiar with. He’d play pranks on his friends. He’d ask to smell your ice cream cone or popsicle as you were eating it, and then he’d steal a bite- He taught my dad to do this, too.

I used to love when I’d hear the story of when my dad first introduced my mom to my grandparents. They were at the Evansville Country Club eating dinner. This was in the seventies so my mom had on an assortment of rings. At the end of the meal when the desserts arrived, Grandpa asked my mom if she thought his piece of carrot cake felt a little too warm. He kept waving his hand over his cake and asking her what she thought. Though hesitant, he finally convinced her to wave her hand over the cake to check, and she did. Immediately, he smashed her hand, completely submerging it into the cake, covering her hand and rings with cake and icing. Welcome to the family.

I always looked forward to eating lunch at the Shrine. Not really because of the food, but to see my dad and my Grandpa and to hear the jokes Grandpa would tell. One time when I was in high school, right after he got his first hearing aids, we were there eating lunch, and he got that mischievous look on his face, so I knew he had a new joke to tell us. This one involved my dad’s help. From across the table, Grandpa looked at my dad and said, “You know, Mark. I’ve got this new hearing aid. It’s the best one yet. I can hear the leaves rustling in the breeze; I can hear the birds chirping off in the distance. It’s incredible.” Right on cue, Dad would tilt his head and ask, “What kind is it?” Grandpa would lift his hand to his ear and reply, “What time is it?” He’d look at his watch and add, “It’s ten past twelve.” I don’t know how many times they told that joke, but I never got tired of hearing it.

At one time, Grandpa hired all of the acts for the circus. He took me back stage every year growing up to meet the entertainers. One year, Lassie was the main act, and they needed a helper, and Grandpa really wanted me to do it. But I was about ten and terribly shy and didn’t want to. But he insisted, and I could never say no to him. I always wanted to please him because I admired him so much. I had short hair at the time and the announcer kept calling me a boy, and I wanted to run and hide, but I didn’t. I couldn’t let Grandpa down.

One year in St. Croix, Grandpa and I noticed an older German traveler; he was there alone. And Grandpa told me, “Go use your German and talk to him. He’s all alone.” I honestly didn’t want to approach a strange man and strike up a conversation, but not being able to say no to Grandpa, I did and found out the man’s wife had recently passed and he was sailing around the world. Every day, Grandpa encouraged me to go keep the man company for a few minutes and finally one day Grandpa said, “Sarah, I want you to invite him to dinner with us.” So I did. He ate dinner with all nine of us one night, and we had a great time. The man felt so special that we had included him in our family plans, and he thanked us. Grandpa was so pleased, not just because I had used my German, but because he just couldn’t let that old guy feel alone. He wanted him to feel special.

When I first got published, I knew he’d be proud of me, but I honestly didn’t expect him to read my book. But he did, and he quoted lines from my book back to me. He showed up at Barnes and Noble for every event with his walker, even when he wasn’t feeling well. He always made me feel so special. When I’d write a poem or a blog post online, he’d read it and post a comment for me to see. Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog and it had only been up for five minutes when I received a notification that William Standring had commented. Just seeing his name and comment made me smile.

Grandma Marilyn used to tell me the story about when she and Grandpa officially became an item. She said one day while she was in nursing school in St. Louis, she came home to find Grandpa and one other fella standing at her doorstep. Both of them had been trying to win her heart. She said it was a deciding moment. It was serious. She had to make a choice. She looked from one guy to the other and then she walked straight over to Grandpa. She told me she just knew she had to choose him. I’d always been told about when I was a baby and I wouldn’t let anyone hold me- willingly that is- except three people. My Mom, my dad, and my Grandpa Doc. My grandmothers couldn’t hold me, but Grandpa could hold me all he wanted. I went straight to him. I never asked Grandma to elaborate as to how she knew Grandpa was the one. I didn’t need an explanation. Of course, he was the one. Just like I knew from the moment I met him as a child, I went straight to him, too.

A few months back, Grandpa emailed Sam, Coleen, and me, and he told us in the email he didn’t think he had much time left. Then he wrote, “It has been a privilege to be your grandpa.” The email made me cry, imagine that- and of course, I wrote him back immediately and told him “Grandpa, it has been a privilege being your granddaughter too, and just so you know I plan to see you again in Heaven.”

Friday I watched my daughter, Audrey, give a presentation about Neil Armstrong’s success story. I couldn’t stop thinking about Grandpa. Grandpa’s success story wasn’t the businesses he started and grew or honors he received. Those things were important and they’ll live on through the next generations. Sonitrol will continue to be carried on by my brother, Sam. And that made Grandpa so proud. But Grandpa’s success story was more than that. His success story was the way he made us feel. He made each and every one of us feel loved and feel special, and he made us smile.

One of my friends told me the other day, that the more you love someone, the more your heart hurts when they pass. Well, Grandpa I must have loved you more than I can comprehend, because my heart has never hurt like this before.

Still, I’m certain God has a new angel in charge of the entertainment committee and probably telling one of his favorite jokes as we speak.

May those of us still here do our best to carry on his legacy of love and laughter. We’ll never forget you, Grandpa. And we’ll see you again.

 Sarah and Grandpa Doc

Grandpa came to every book event I had back home in Indiana. ❤

Grandpa and Grandma

Grandma and Grandpa in 1947 at the Washington University School of Nursing Prom. Grandpa went to dental school there, and Grandma went to nursing school there.

Grandpa and grandkids

My brother Sam, myself, sister Coleen, and Grandpa at his last birthday party

Dad and Sarah

My dad and I after Grandpa’s funeral

Grandpa

Link shared by Sonitrol about Grandpa: http://www.sonitrolev.com/doc-standring-he-will-be-missed/