Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 10, 2003
Teddy and I shared September birthdays, she born in 1913 and I in 1953. Although the difference in our ages spanned a couple of generations, she was one of my best friends. We weren't related, but my daughters knew her as Grandma Teddy.
It's hard to believe she's been gone three years this week. I still find I want to call her or to stop by her big two-story house for a cup of coffee. Whatever happened in my life - big or small - I wanted to let her know about it, and I still do.
Teddy's given name was Lavon Theodora, but it was too formal for her personality and too big for her diminutive frame. She was born in Wamego - which she pronounced wa-mee-ga - and was my neighbor when I lived in Manhattan. I could always count on her back door being open for my frequent visits.
"Knock, knock," I'd call out as I opened the squeaky screen door.
"Come in, come in," she'd answer in her gravelly, yet cheerful voice.
We talked about anything and everything - politics, recipes, hair styles, religion, sex, raising children, and even how to handle men. Or, we sat side by side in silence, sipping coffee, comfortable in our own skins.
When I first met Teddy in 1982, she was still mowing her lawn, digging up pesky dandelions and taking daily walks. Even as the years took their toll, she found time and energy to crochet potholders, booties, hats and bookmarks for church bazaars, a Christmas tree skirt for me, and afghans for my girls when they were babies, including tiny ones for their dolls.
Teddy had only one grown son and no grandchildren, yet she kept a big clothes basket full of toys she bought at garage sales for my girls and my sister's girls to play with when we visited.
Throughout the year, she baked banana nut bread - Art said it was the best he'd ever eaten - and chocolate chip cookies, which were the girls' favorites. At Christmas, she baked stained-glass marshmallow cookies and a variety of other goodies which she heaped onto big plates for all her neighbors and friends.
Teddy loved to read and she always kept up with news of the world and her beloved Wildcats. She was a good student of the Bible and she loved old hymns. She also had an irreverent side. Her closet was filled with Playgirl magazines and books such as A High Old Time (or How to Enjoy Being a Woman Over Sixty.) She loved jokes, especially those that poked fun at growing old.
I often joked with Teddy that she was like a cat with nine lives. Several years after I met her, she broke her ribs in a car accident. Twice, she had congestive heart failure. She was hooked up to oxygen 24 hours a day for almost 10 years. She had operations on several hernias. She had radiation treatments on a tumor behind her right ear. And her eyesight started failing at the end.
But although she became physically frail, she insisted on staying at home and doing as much as possible for herself. She took walks as long as she could, pushing a baby stroller in front of her to hold the oxygen tank she needed to breathe. She exercised daily on a small-scale trampoline that she kept in her living room.
She knew how to pamper herself, too. She loved the green satin sheets I gave her for her last birthday, she wore bright, sometimes mis-matched, clothes and she kept polish on her nails. She also checked out "books on tape" so she could listen to the romance novels she loved so well.
After she died, I helped her son go through some of her things. I found the following quote from Desiderata on top of her desk:
"Be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, in the light of your present understanding. Whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."
That sounds like something Teddy might have said.
Teddy had no grandchildren of her own, so she “adopted” Katie, Mariya, Larisa and Gabriela.