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What Grandma Says

My grandmother, Johanna, is 94 years old. She'll be 95 in January. My grandfather, Henry, passed away about 14 or 15 years ago. He was the bomb-diggity of all Grandpa's. Trust me on this. Together, Henry and Johanna have 129 descendants. At least that's how many I've found to date.

The oldest one is 73 years old.
The youngest, not yet three months.

Two are no longer with us: my Uncle Ron, and my cousin Cathy's son, David.

It's interesting to note (at least to me) that all six of my Uncle Ron's children have names that begin with R.

I also think it's interesting that all 8 female descendants of my Uncle Lester have names that end in "y."

This is my grandmother when she turned 90 checking out
this AWESOME family tree my cousins Kelly & Tracy made.
Kelly is also a teacher. I think that's obvious from the tree.

My grandma is also the bomb-diggity of all grandmothers. Trust me on this. I actually didn't used to think so. I mean, my grandparents were always old. When I spent the night at her house as a child, Grandma was waking me up by 6:00am to help with chores. She made me do things like sweep the patio, peel potatoes and vacuum the floors. (Which, I have to admit was actually pretty cool because they had this thing called central vac and that was wild. I mean, where did the dirt go?! It was like magic.) Also, my grandparents only watched bowling and Wheel of Fortune and went to bed by 8:45pm. One time, I begged and pleaded to please let me ride with Grandma and Grandpa to the Walworth County Fair and they never made it over 13 miles per hour. I swear. It took two days to get there.

But they were still cool because they were my grandparents, you know? They did things like have huge family picnics and all the cousins would play together all day long. We were the family that played baseball together. We crammed 40 people minimum into each holiday gathering. We were awesome. We are awesome.

When my Grandpa died, well, that was hard. It was the first death that I really felt. But I was able to get to know my Grandma in a totally different way... and that woman is funny! I now understand where I get my, uh, uniqueness from. Quite frankly, I don't ever want to say goodbye to my Grandma. So, she's just going to have to go on and live to be at least 118.

Except she's way too logical for that nonsense. Case in point: she thinks it's about time to let her wishes be known. And Grandma wants to donate her body to science. Hobbling across the living room she grabs a couple articles she's clipped from the newspapers. I've done some research...

Her logical side explains that this way everything's already done for you and the family doesn't have to do anything. They just take the body and boom, just like that, it's done. This way, she won't get stuck in some ridiculous outfit someone picked out for her. Because let's be honest, what she thinks is a suitable outfit might be vetoed by someone with more fashion sense. Why spend eternity in a dress when a peach-colored track suit would be way more comfy? This way, no one argues about the clothes. Or the casket.

And also then no one has to gawk at you at a viewing because it never really looks like you anyway and just manages to creep kids out. (Besides, she wasn't one for wearing much make-up.)

She goes on to explain that some places give you ashes back. (But what would someone do with a bunch of ashes?) Others keep them. Some places use all the body, some only parts.

In strikes me that this is one of the oddest conversations anyone could possibly have.

It also strikes me that this is EXACTLY the type of conversation EVERYONE should have.

Because now I worry about what kind of stupid outfit I'll be stuck wearing in eternity. My luck, Big V is going to shove my hips into a too small bikini and I'm stuck explaining to the Keeper of the Holy Gates why I'm dressed like a harlot. I can't have my mom pick - no offense, mom, but you'd put me in my super fuzzy pajama pants and big fluffy pink and green striped socks with an extra layer of thermal underwear just in case it's drafty.

My mom tells me a few days later that she, too, has done some research... and that Grandma has to be careful who she chooses as if she's trying to decide who to go to a dance with. Turns out universities aren't the only places that accept bodies. You could go on tour with Body Worlds or request to be a crash test, uh, body, which is used when they simulate a car crash. (And here I thought they only used the dummies.)

A body can also be donated so studying doctors can practice. Practice things like face lifts. Think about it. Do want them practicing on a live person? My only question with this is would we get a before and after shot. Grandma passed when she was 98, but doesn't look a day over 67...

Have you thought about what you want done when you pass away? Anything specific? Anything you think your families would balk at? Do you at least know what you want to wear?


Erik Nieman said…
As somebody studying to become a doctor, I am happy and honoured to hear of your grandmother's wish.

I have chosen to donate my body to the Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee. Even if my remains are not used for one of their many forensic research projects, my skeleton will be catalogued and stored among the largest modern collection of human skeletons in the world.

Thank you for sharing this story!
With kind regards
I have chosen to have my body dipped in gold and displayed on the front lawn of the White House. What?
Actually, I am an organ donor. I have made frequent and loud requests to have the rest of me cremated and my ashes scattered in all of my favorite places, and maybe some more that I have never been. Brock acted like he had just heard this for the first time last week. In other news, I recently purchased a discount plan that includes dental, vision and HEARING. I'm pretty excited about it.
Becca said…
I love this!! I have gotten to know my grandma better as I get older and she is awesome too. She will also have to live to 118.
Anonymous said…
Cremation all the way. The hubs and I have discussed it and are on the same page. No viewing, no funeral. Just torch us and have a big party where everyone tells funny stories about what insane people we were.

Oh and Johi - just make sure Brock knows about your desire to be buried in head to toe PINK, including the casket! ;)
Anonymous said…
I found the Body Worlds exhibits to be really fascinating. Bodies are so weird and awesome and ... weird, mostly.

I'm having surgery in a few days, and ever since I had a very pleasant conversation with a pre-op nurse about health care proxies and risk of death, I've been having some morbid thoughts. The other day, I was like, "Mom, you're the only one in my life to be my health care proxy because I'm single and pathetic, and I need you to promise me that you won't let me be a vegetable. A simply way of remembering my request is that I love to eat vegetables, but I don't want to be one."

We're probably going to have this talk a few more times before I go under the knife. Also, I want to be cremated because I tend to think that cemeteries are wastes of space and bad for the environment, and she's going to *hate* that.

I should probably get a lawyer. But this comment is legal and binding, right?
Anonymous said…
P.S. Your grandma sounds super awesome.
Getrealmommy said…
Lovely post. My granma died when I was a self involved college kid, I regret iwasnt better to her....

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