When I remember my Grandma Liechty, I remember her sweetness. Just like her cinnamon rolls, Grandma was all warmth and comfort, cinnamon and sugar. She was always smiling and chuckling and sharing amusing anecdotes in her distinct North Dakoootan lilt: ”Well, ya knooow, I remember when you were a little boy, and yer mom was just gettin’ ready to have another little one…” and then she’d go on to recount — with great fondness and happy reminiscence — how I impishly used magic markers to create a new pattern on the living room couch or something like that. So many of her stories were about little children and animals. That says something about her, too, doesn’t it? Children and animals and my Grandma Liechty are some of the purest expressions of innocence and sweetness that we may ever know. I honestly cannot recall a single occasion in which my Grandma demonstrated anger beyond a momentary shaking of her head and indistinct muttering of “Oh fer gooodness.” And even then, she did not dwell on these unpleasant things for any longer than a moment. But here’s what’s really amazing: that’s actually how she viewed the world! I lived with Grandma and Grandpa for a whole summer in Jamestown, and I witnessed first-hand the sincerity of her sweetness. It was not an act, put on for others. It was not a way of manipulating others. It was just her way. It was her sweet character.
When I remember my Grandma Liechty, I remember her unflappability. It’s an awkward, old-fashioned word — but I really do think it’s the best one to describe this aspect of my Grandma’s personality. Her cinnamon-roll sweetness was remarkable enough — but to realize how consistent, how unswerving, how perpetual her sweetness actually was (along with all other manner of goodness that was wrapped up in my grandmother). Her emotional presence brought the joy and enthusiasm of a sporty, black Plymouth Laser (with electronic displays and vocal commands, just like the car from “Knight Rider”); though she also carried the calmness and steadiness of a broad, burgundy Oldsmobile 88. It seemed like nothing could phase my Grandma! She was completely unflappable. I should know: because I got to witness her response to 373 miles’ worth of driving with a back-seat full of pre-adolescent boys who spent the entire time cracking themselves up with stupid jokes, making up their own Latino-themed Christmas songs, singing those Latino-themed Christmas songs repeatedly, and otherwise antagonizing her (and Grandpa) all the way from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Yes, believe it or not, even in those most desperate of circumstances, Grandma remained pleasant, positive, and even complimentary (she thought our Latino-themed Christmas songs were, and here I quote, “wonderful”)! Now seriously: if that’s not unflappability, I don’t know what is.
When I remember my Grandma Liechty, I remember her faithfulness. Through all her years, she was true to her family, to her husband, and to her God in a way that seems almost mythological in our day and age. Grandma lived according to the promises she had made, the relationships she had nurtured, and the convictions she had developed in her heart. And yet her faithfulness even extended to the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, the unembraced. As far as I could tell, Grandma simply chose to believe the best about other people and extend the benefit of the doubt — however small that doubt might be. She spoke in loving terms of others, even when the rest of the people in the room might be inclined towards gossip or unkind words. These are the circumstances in which faith is tested and proved pure — when no one else would have needed to know — and Grandma had this kind of faithfulness and integrity in abundance.
I love the memory of my Granmda Liechty. I think I will always remember her sweetness, her unflappability, and her faithfulness. Yet even more than remembering these things about my Grandma, I hope to emulate them, and encourage my children to emulate them — for generation upon generation, so that the memory of Grandma will never fade. So help me God…