Sunday, January 2, 2011

Grandma Benac

My Grandma Benac loves to tell me the story of how after I was born she came to my parents' San Diego apartment to help. She says she held me in the night trying to compose a poem about how I (her first grandchild) was an extension of her and my Grandpa's love. She says I could recognize the sound of her footsteps and would quiet when I heard her coming.

All my life, Grandma's love for me has been a constant buoy, and it hasn't been hard to love my devoted, spunky granny in return. 

Grandma and newborn me.
Yesterday I sat in the hospital and watched her body slowly, quietly stop. By the time the numbers on the monitor were zeros, it was clear that she was long gone, her body just a shell of the woman.
Grandma was famous for her doll cakes. This one was for my first birthday.
Grandma was an energetic, enthusiastic, busy person who never hesitated to let you know what she thought. She may have been a suburban housewife in the 1950s, but that never stopped her from telling it like it is, sometimes in colorful terms. Also, you were her best friend. Whether you were in line at the store or sitting next to her on a plane, it took her only moments to find a point of connection.

Look at that figure! We Benac girls come by our hips honestly.
Once when I was about seven, my Grandma suddenly snapped at my Mom and me, "Oh, you two girls will never get along! You're too close in age!" It was a mind-blowing experience to hear her berate us both in the same breath. The Grandmother indeed!
Snuggle buddies when I was two or so.

When I was in college--in the days before cell phones--Grandma would supply me with phone cards or set up her own 1-800 number. I was expected to call frequently. Any time she called me was an indictment of my laxity. She visited me at several crazy student apartments and made it clear that just because I was away from home, I certainly was not beyond her purview.

She had expectations for righteous living. It was clear that any poor choice of mine would be a disappointment to her, and I'm grateful for constant, gentle prodding to keep me on the strait and narrow. At the same time, her love was unquestionable. To this day, when things look bleak and hopeless, I hear in my mind, "At least Grandma loves me!"

In 2003, just weeks before my Grandpa died.
Here's some of my Grandma's sage advice:*

"If you're intimidated by someone, just picture them with their pants down and sitting on the toilet." I think I found this one more disturbing than helpful. But she always delivered this advice so earnestly!
Full circle: Grandma watching Roscoe eat his first-birthday cake.
 "A little butt-patting is good for a marriage." She and my Grandpa were ga-ga in love for over 50 years, so she is a highly reliable source for marital advice. And I've found a few friendly butt-pats in passing certainly don't hurt anything.
Summer 2008, playing Hand & Foot, the crazy card game Grandma taught everyone to play. She hated to lose, but she hated unworthy competition even worse. The ideal was to give her a run for her money but for her to prevail nonetheless. From the looks of the cards on the table, I'm about to get a sound beating.
"Keep prayed up." I think this one is her classic. Grandma opened the door to Mormon missionaries, advocated for them to my Grandpa, and devoted the rest of her life to shepherding her now-100 posterity along the gospel path. Of all the love, support, and guidance I've received from my Grandma, I am most grateful for the strong gospel legacy she gave us. She didn't just grow a big family--she built it consciously, purposefully on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
This last May. Haley and I flew to Dallas for a weekend just with Grandma.
Grandma was a lonely widow for seven years. A series of tiny strokes impaired her trademark outgoing personality, and her body's capacity ticked gradually downward. When I saw her in the hospital a few days ago, it was clear that it was time for her to go. Because of the gospel she brought to our family, I share her knowledge that her husband, her parents, the her daughter that was born alive but whom she never saw all were awaiting her. I'm sad for me that my Grandma is gone. But for her, I have nothing but happiness and joy.

*Sibs and cousins: I'd love to hear your favorite Grandma-isms.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Having sat by both my parent's beds at the time of their passing, I know what a spiritual experience it is. It is testimony building to watch the progress from this life to the next.

  2. So sorry to hear this--but what a beautiful dedication to her life you have completed here. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is a very lovely tribute.

  4. Thank you for writing this and for the wonderful pictures! I love you and Grandma so much.

  5. I will miss her awkward-but-required kisses on the lips.

  6. Nancy, I agree! Mark always says she's the only other woman he kisses on the lips. Little Jesse once climbed onto her lap, grabbed her cheeks in his two hands, and planted a big juicy one right on her lips. I thought it was pretty good payback.

  7. What a sweet tribute, Angela. There are a few things about your grandmother that remind me of my grandmother who passed away 16 months ago. It sounds like your mother lived a long, full life. 100 descendants! Wow!

  8. Angela, thanks! And Nancy, oh those kisses!

  9. I'm so glad you composed this tribute Angela. It really touched me. I'm happy that we can share in the knowledge that Grandma and Grandpa are united in heaven now. What a beautiful reunion that must have been.

  10. Sounds like a wonderful woman. I'm sure there has been much rejoicing in heaven. So who's going to pass onthe tradition of her required kisses?