Remembering Grandma

My grandmother recently passed away at the age of 95 (Just think of all she had seen!). I was asked to give a eulogy at the funeral, and this is what I wrote and delivered. I may have jumped from the script a little bit but this is essentially it. In retrospect there are a few things I wish I had included, but I think this tribute does a pretty good job. RIP Grandma.

 

As the eldest grandson I have been asked to say a few words in honor of Elmarie Herweck. Well, that’s what most of you called her. We grandkids had a few other names for her. For my brother and me, she was Grandma Her, because apparently Herweck was too big a mouthful. To cousins Cory and Samantha, she was known simply as “MeMaw”. And my kids knew her as “Great Mom”, harkening back to what we all called my great grandmother many years ago.
There are many stories I could tell today, illustrating the many different sides to Grandma’s personality. I could reminisce about family meals with good conversations around the table eating food prepared by loving hands, and what is still the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. We could talk about the trips she has taken with family and friends, always ready for the next adventure. Or how about her love of games, like “Solitaire” or “Rook”? Remember the long marathon games of “Rook”? How about “Dominos”? Don’t get me started on “Aggrivation”.
But instead I would like to focus on Elmarie, the person, as I knew her. She was a Christian woman, good Southern Baptist, and she loved her God and rejoiced in her faith, sharing it with others whenever possible.
She also had a great sense of humor, and kept it until the end. Her laugh was whole hearted and contagious. She loved a good joke, or a good story. But I don’t believe she ever said that anything struck her as funny. Nope. It “tickled” her. That was the expression. There were levels, too. “Kindly tickled” was pretty funny, and “tickled” was hilarious. I always liked that.
She loved her family and loved being around us all. Earlier this week my brother posted to Facebook a picture from a birthday celebration we had a few years back at Chevy’s Tex Mex restaurant. When it’s your birthday at Chevy’s, you get to wear the birthday sombrero. So there she is, my sweet Grandmother, wearing a sombrero twice as big as her head, and a smile almost as big as that sombrero. It was silly, and she knew it but the look of joy and love on her face is one that all who were there will surely cherish.
But in thinking about Grandma over the past few days, what I really keep coming back to is her generosity. Especially toward family. If you were traveling to or through St. Louis, she would always make room for you. That’s just how it was, you stayed at Elmarie’s house. When cousin Pam first moved to St. Louis and needed a place to stay, who did she go to? Aunt Elmarie, exactly.
She put my family up more than a few times too. The St. Louis heat can do a number on your air conditioner, and we had one that failed on and off for a few seasons. Time to go stay with Grandma. She had no issues at all with bringing in a family of four, sometimes for a week or more at a time. That couldn’t have been the easiest thing in the world, but she did it gladly. That was her heart.
Grandma was also very accepting of new people to the family. Not just the babies, everybody loves them, but new partners, new spouses were always welcomed and made to feel like family from minute one.
Even back when Valerie and I were dating, a few years before we got married, I would take her to the family Christmas and every year Grandma made sure there was a present under the tree for her. Mostly socks. But Grandma made sure that she wasn’t left out. Again, that was her heart.
One more example of generosity. A few years ago, it was made clear that Grandma would no longer be able to live independently, and moved in with her son next door. My wife and I were given the opportunity to buy her house. We talked about it and decided that moving next door to family could be a real blessing. And it has been, but in one way in particular.
For most of their lives, my kids knew Great Mom as a lady they saw a few times a year at family gatherings. But now, they had the opportunity to know her and grow to love her as a real person who loved them just as much. I am very grateful for that.
When you move into a house, you make it your own. Change the paint here, update this or that, make some changes. The master bedroom in our house has a walk in closet. And on the first day we moved in, hanging from a nail on the wall right next to it was a giant Chevy’s sombrero from that birthday party back in 2017. Seeing it made me smile. And it’s still there. And it still makes me smile.

I think that might be the best legacy any of us can leave for those who knew and loved us, that whenever they think of you they smile. So Elmarie, Memaw, Great Mom, we miss you. We love you. We will see you again one day. Until then, thank you for the smiles.

Dave Goes Mediterranean…kinda…

The Brink family has decided to make a conscious effort to eat healthier.

After a few discouraging visits to the doctor, I realized that the changes I made in my diet after being diagnosed with diabetes a few years back just haven’t been enough. My blood sugar levels are still too high-not crazy, but not where they need to be. While I have the option of upping my current medication, I would rather try to get things under control without going that route.

I’ve had to take a hard look at myself and I came to the following conclusions:

  1. I need to exercise more.  I’ve started adding in more walks throughout the neighborhood and local parks four or five days a week, usually with the dog in tow. Which is nice, but often means carrying a bag of poop.
  2. I snack too much.  Not only do I snack too often, but I don’t really pay close attention to what I’m snacking on. Changing this is difficult but I’m trying my best.
  3. I need a diet I can stick to. The Standard American Diet doesn’t work for me, and a lot of the info from the American Diabetes Association, though helpful, is kind of vague when it comes to actual meal planning, especially when it comes to a guy like me who isn’t going to do math every time lunch and dinner roll around.

So after a talk with my wife we decided to find a diet plan we could go all in on together. Now, I don’t use the word “diet” in the “lose-weight-and-have-a-swimsuit-bod-by-summer” type of way. I mean it as more of an eating plan, and a change in the way we approach food.

We decided that what our family really needs is a plan we can follow. Maybe not something laid out for us day by day, but guidelines and meals that are easy to prepare. So we began looking at the diet plans that are out there. The big popular one right now seems to be the keto diet (which is basically the Atkins plan Redux). While eating tons of meat is attractive, this doesn’t seem to be a very holistic approach to mealtime. Besides, you can’t have bread. I’m sorry, what? No bread? Bread is one of the most delicious things ever-and carbs may be my love language. So that’s out.

After doing some more digging, we began looking at the Mediterranean diet. While some of the specifics didn’t quite appeal to us, the basic ideas and philosophy definitely did. To dumb it down, the Mediterranian diet focuses on whole foods, namely plant based foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes), whole wheat, nuts, fish and seafood, white meats, moderate use of dairy, and infrequent red meats and sweets. Avoid processed foods, and use olive oil and vegetable spread instead of butter for cooking. Share meals with family and friends as much as possible. Walk more, rest more, de-stress more, and drink more water.

And that’s basically it. There are tons of recipes out there that follow these guidelines and the ones we have tried have all been not only quite yummy but also Instant Pot friendly. Naturally some recipes need to be modified due to my diabetes, and we’re still learning how to make all this work. But we are not  thinking about this all as following a diet so much as a new way to approach the food we eat and how we live our lives. Hopefully, the desired result of dropping my blood sugar levels will be achieved. But even if not, and I do need more meds to control things just because that’s how it is, I believe we will still stick to this plan. It is a much healthier approach to eating than we have ever had, and that can only be good for our family in the long run.

Oh, one more thing. I promise not to become one of those people. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones who clog your Facebook/Twitter feed with memes about the dangers of pretty much every awesome food under the sun. The people who share “101 ways to ruin anything by putting Kale in it”.  In other words, the Food Police. I won’t do that to you, because it annoys the snot out of me just like it does you.

These people seem to think that we don’t know a triple-decker burger with chili cheese fries is a bad choice and if we only did then we wouldn’t eat it. WRONG!!! People know, they just don’t care-they eat it because it tastes good.  While my irresponsible burger days are going to be few and far between from here on out, I’m not going to tell you what to eat or how to eat it. Do what you want. Enjoy.

Anyway, Bon appetite. Or, no, wait this is Mediterranean, so Opa! Or something…I dunno. Later.