My grandmother, Evie Ott, passed away on Sunday. She was 98 years old so this wasn’t a huge surprise. In fact, I knew that is was probable, the way that you know that it’s going to rain….you just know. Knowing that she was 98 and not in the best of health, I was able to visit her before I left the country. I wanted to see her while she was still spunky and could get around – that’s how I wanted to remember her while I was in Vietnam.
My grandmother was a strong-minded lady, but she never wanted to appear that way. Her husband, my grandfather, passed away over 16 years ago; from that point forward, she wanted to die and join him. But her body had other plans for her; it wasn’t ready to go – it still had a great engine. So as sad as I am about her passing, I know that’s she’s wanted this for a long time; and most importantly I know she’s happy.
Out of all of my grandparents, my Grandma Ott always had the most distinctive personality to me. My feeling about her changed considerably as I grew up. As a child I feared her. We’d go visit my grandparents on their farm in Nebraska a couple of times a year. I remember the smell of that farm, and the fact that you could see it from the main road about a 1 ½ before you actually arrived there. After a long 500 mile trip across the Midwest stuck in the back seat with your older brother and sister and no air conditioning, you were always looking for that first glimpse of the farm house – it meant that you were about out of your 4 wheel steel prison. Grandma Evie was a no nonsense woman who expected a lot of people. She expected so much of people that to me she was the definition of a nag. She was always telling my grandfather what to do and he was so kind-hearted that he did what she wanted and never spoke up about it. Yet as I got older, that ‘nag’ image went away and was replaced by a very interesting, caring woman. My simplistic child view was changing.
Grandma Evie also was constantly trying to get out of her reality. She lived on the farm for years and years – they were farmers. However, more than anything she always wanted a life in the city; a nice house so that she could entertain other housewives in town properly. I always remember her as the most sophisticated farm wife I knew. When she went out to gather eggs or feed the chickens she always had on make-up and looked good. Even at 98 years old she still refused to have gray hair, so it was colored until the day she died. She was always worried about how she looked…always the lady.
It wasn’t until my grandfather passed away that I really started to bond with my grandma. When I would see her she would always remind me how much she missed grandpa and wanted to be with him – even 16 years later – this was always the first topic of conversation. We would sit in her basement and go through old photos that she wanted to get rid of because she thought they were ugly and old, but I was enthralled with hearing the stories she would tell that went with the pictures. I came to realize that she was a pretty strong woman and certainly a persuasive woman.
After my grandfather’s passing she also seemed to become more adventurous. I still remember when she was in her mid 80’s and we somehow convinced her to drive her own snow mobile in Wisconsin. She was hilarious. We once stopped on a frozen lake (as you do up North) and I told her she was on a frozen lake and she absolutely wouldn’t believe me. At the end of the snow mobile ride, she even had a small crash as she tried to ‘gun it’ to come up out of a ditch. Before I knew it the snow mobile came out of the ditch, but grandma was no longer on it! The force of the acceleration made the snow mobile accelerate right out from underneath her and she lie in the ditch laughing as we all freaked out, terrified that she was hurt!
One of the hardest things to watch her go through was losing her sight. As she aged, she remained very healthy mentally and physically; except for her eyes. It’s depressing to watch someone go from seeing the world to slowly seeing a blurred world. As her eyesight degraded, we had to constantly change how we interacted with her; we got her big print books, then to magnifying glasses, then eventually went to the Bible on CD. Every time we saw her she could see less and less. I think her failing eyesight made her rely on her memory more and hence she was a smart as ever. The last time I saw her in August of 2008 she and I debated about who the next President should be. She loved two things – Nebraska football and politics. She would listen to both on her radio religiously. It was fun to debate with her as our political views were quite different! She never believed that a woman should hold a presidential position – in her eyes it just wasn’t right; it was a man’s job. This also makes me recall the time when I held a Director position at Coach and she asked me if I was doing secretarial work. Ah – she was 97 – I could forgive her for this and find it actually quite touching as it reminded me of the time she grew up in and how far we’d (women) had come.
So – on this day where my entire family gathers together for her funeral, I pay my respects from Vietnam by honoring her here on Ottsworld. After all, she was always rather distraught that the ‘Ott’ name wasn’t going to be carried on. My father was the only son and my one and only brother has all daughters. I bet she never thought that it would live on with me…and the internet; Ottsworld.
October 30, 1911 – February 8, 2009
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