Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Days I Recall

In April 2002, Nana had a stroke and was hospitalized. During her recovery, she wrote a letter that I'm certain she copied and mailed to the entire family because this was her style. She often wrote personal letters to her sisters, children, and grandchildren, but if she had a general message, she would write one letter, make copies of it, and mail it out to everyone. Nana's letters were always handwritten.

I have always saved letters that touched my heart and this one is one of my favorites.


Originally written by Frances Paulk Bredemeier, April 2002.

Happy Days I Recall

Of course, a happy day was when Daddy (Jesse Paulk) and I married on September 30, 1938.

The happiest day was when I knew Jesus was my Lord and Savior - my strength and my redeemer.

I do not remember being baptized, but when I was a little girl about 6 or 7, Momma had a new dress for me and Momma and Daddy took me to Sunday School. We sat in little chairs in front of churt - about 7 or 8 children and their parents talked to us. I am sure that was the day I was baptized. I have always loved the Lord, but as I grow older, I realize each day - He is my strength and redeemer. He will never leave me or forsake me, if only I believe and I do.

Another great and happy day was when the nure handed me a darling baby girl - Virginia - September 12, 1948. Daddy and I thought we owned the world with Virginia, so sweet and precious.

Another day to remember was when a bouncing baby boy was handed to me, February 22, 1951 - Michael. Daddy thought the whole world was handed to him with that special baby boy. Virginia and Michael have both given us great pleasures then Daddy was taken away on September 12, 1961.

With dear thoughts of Daddy and God's help, they grew up and were a real pleasure, dear children. Never any trouble. I had many smiles each day.

Then came along another darling baby girl in Tampa on June 16, 1971, Jessica. (My first grandchild.) She was so cute and sweet. I remember driving over to Tampa to see the precious new arrival. Such a pleasure you have been. Then came another bouncing baby boy in Ft. Myers, Florida on October 5, 1974, David Gardner. All these dear little babies have made life worth living.

A few years ago, Jessica invited me to Washington, DC for Christmas. As the plane reached DC, I stood by the window and looked at the Capitol, never expecting to see it with my own eyes. I stood there in awe thinking about all the goverment under that dome. It was a sight I shall never forget. That Christmas she got many wonderful passes for us to see all of DC. David, bless his heart, got a wheel chair and pushed me all over Washington. Sights I had only studied in school - never expecting to see with my own eyes. Potomac River was real. All of the beautiful sights of DC and thanks to Jessica and David for all these wonderful sights. Even Christmas Eve services in the beautiful National Cathedral and then a drive to Roanoke, Virginia. I slept in the back seat all the way, but the next day, going back through all those mountains. Had I known I sure would not have slept. Anyway, was a wonderful Christmas - being with Virginia, Jessica, and David. Will always be a wonderful memory.

Then I think of Jesse and Ryan, (my grandsons from my son Michael). I only saw darling pictures of Jesse for a few months with Michael holding him in his arms. Such a precious picture. Then I few to Colorado when he was baptized at home. The preacher came to the house and Maureen (Michael's wife) and Michael had a few friends in. Jesse arrived November 30, 1981 and was named for his grandfather, Jesse Edward Paulk, and someone in Maureen's family was named Michael, so was a nice name - Jesse Michael Paulk - from both sides of the family.

Ryan arrived in a Dunedin, Florida on May 1, 1985 and named Ryan Thomas Paulk. I remember driving to the hospital when he was only a few hours old. He was so dear and sweet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Jessica, You're My Favorite Granddaughter"

Nana never played favorites. She loved and doted on each of her four grandchildren equally.

I was the first grandchild, born June 16, 1971. For almost 3 1/2 years, I was the only grandchild. Mom says that Nana was the second person to hold me when I was born. My dad was the first.

My brother David was next and born on October 5, 1974. Dave could do no wrong in her eyes and she was incredibly proud of both of his artistic and athletic abilities.

Because we lived in Florida until 1975, Nana got to see us regularly for the first few years of our lives. In my memory, Nana was either always in Ft. Myers with us or we were in Crystal Beach, although I'm sure that's not quite how it was.

My cousin Jesse was born on November 30, 1981 and named for our late grandfather, Jesse Paulk. Last, but not least, Jesse's younger brother, Ryan, was born on May 15, 1985. For a few years in the 80s, Jesse and Ryan, along with my Uncle Ryan and Aunt Maureen, lived in Crystal Beach, Florida and Nana loved having them in her life on a daily basis.

Dave and I great up in Chicago and didn't have the same daily relationship with Nana, but we spoke to her at least weekly, visited with her at least twice a year in person, and shared almost weekly letters back and forth.

Although she didn't ever play favorites, she never ended a phone call with me without telling me that I was her favorite granddaughter. Of course, I was also her only granddaughter, but I never let that cheapen the compliment.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mrs. Paulk Goes to Washington

This was originally published on Little Merry Sunshine on Monday, June 8, 2009.

About 10:30 this morning, I received one of those dreaded phone calls. It was from my mom and she was calling to tell me that something happened with Nana last night and she wasn't expected to live through the week. My mom gave me the details of what happened with Nana, but all I heard was "Nana is dying," so I can't explain to you what my mom told me.

Many of you know about my Nana and know about the long ordeal we've had with her over the last 7 years. Newer readers of LMS probably don't know about my Nana. Frances Paulk is my maternal grandmother, my heroine, and my rock and it breaks my heart into 10 million pieces seeing her suffer. You can read more about her in these blog posts.

After I spoke with mom and wiped the tears from my face, I spent most of my day feeling numb. I also got to thinking about some of my favorite memories with Nana.

In the fall of 1994, Uncle Michael graduated from medical school in upstate New York. On her return flight to Florida, Nana had an hour layover in DC, where I'd been living for almost 18 months. Because Washington National Airport (now Reagan National Airport, UGH!) was just a few Metro stops from my office, I suggested that I meet Nana during my lunch hour. And then I had one of my most brilliant ideas.

Almost 80 years old, Nana had never visited Washington DC. As a surprise, I called the airline and arranged to have her layover changed from an hour to four hours. In retrospect, I'm not sure how she didn't know about this change, but when I met her at the gate and let her know of the change of plans, she sure did act surprised. We were going to use her layover to tour DC.

We hopped on the Metro (DC's subway) and rode it across the Potomac River and back into the District. Getting off directly under my office building, our first stop was my office at Hogan & Hartson. As we walked into the lobby and into my office (not a cubicle), she beamed with pride. Because I had just gotten a promotion, I had also just received my first business card. I gave her one that day and she carried it in her wallet until she stopped carrying a wallet.

We left my office and took a cab to my apartment. Although it was only about 6 or 7 blocks away, this was further than I thought she could easily walk and didn't want to spend our precious time walking. I wanted her to see as much of DC as possible in the short amount of time we had. It was from the window of my apartment that she first saw the Capitol and that was the first of many times that day she would say to me "In all my years, I never thought I'd see DC. I read about it in history books, but I never thought I'd walk in the city where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abe Lincoln walked."

We grabbed another cab and I explained to the driver that my Nana had never visited DC before and that before he took us back to Washington National, I wanted him to show us everything. As luck would have it, he was a fountain of knowledge and eagerly drove us from my apartment to the Capitol, past the National Mall, to the Washington Monument, down Constitution Avenue to the Lincoln Memorial, up to National Cathedral, down Massachusetts Avenue past Embassy Row, down 16th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and slowly in front of the White House, over to the Jefferson Memorial, across the 14th Street Bridge and the Potomac River, to the George Washington Parkway and to the airport.

The whole way, Nana sat with her face glued to the cab window taking in the sites not knowing if she'd ever return to the District. The only words she was able to speak were "I never thought I'd see Washington." When she finally emerged from the cab at National Airport, I saw for the first time, the tears of joy in her eyes. Her emotions were obvious and she didn't need to tell me how much she loved that afternoon, although I certainly knew.

That Christmas, I surprised her with one of those Washington DC coffee table books with beautiful pictures of all the sights we saw that afternoon. It was her favorite gift that year and it was certainly my favorite gift that I gave that year. One of the things I loved most about her was her memory. Even though she'd only seen it all once in person, she narrated the entire book to the entire family that Christmas afternoon.

I can't begin to count the number of times I heard her recount that day and how proud she was to be touring Washington with me. The thing is, I'm not sure who was prouder that day, her or me.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I do know that they're running some tests tonight and we should know more soon. I don't know if she really only has about a week left or if I'll blow out the candles on her 93rd birthday cake with her in July.

Part 2 tomorrow.