Here’s a little anecdote about Jessi’a grandma that I wrote while we were driving to her funeral. I hope that people will celebrate the good times when I’m dead and gone. I’d like my funeral to be more of an after party – an after life party if you will
This may seem like an outsider’s perspective, as I have no blood relationship with Nancy Vandegrift. But my wife Jessi was close to her, and because of that I was able to get to know Nancy through their closeness.
To me, Grandma Nancy was many things: Sorority sister, competitive skier, amateur photographer, and cheese connoisseur. It seemed like just when I thought I knew Grandma Nancy’s story, someone like Grandpa Bob or Grandma Dot would reveal something else that would change my perspective, and truly show her depth of character.
Grandma Nancy had a way with words. Or more appropriately, she had a way with names. You know when you were getting called out by grandma. The two I heard the most were: “Bob!” and “Jessi!”
Other things that remind me of her:
The Granny Van – her silver van that had been to Alaska with the Woodiwiss clan in tow. “Granny Van” is an endearing term that I now apply to any 2nd generation mother’s multi-passenger vehicle, but Grandma Nancy’s will always be the one my mind remembers first.
I’ll always remember stopping by the Vandegrift house. Grandpa Bob may be in the sun room watching C-SPAN, but for Grandma Nancy it was either Home Shopping Network or Home & Garden TV. My wife Jessi must have inherited this gene as she was easily captivated by whatever project show Grandma was watching on HGTV.
But her most beloved material possession in my mind was the motor home. After getting to know the Vandegrifts over the last 15 years, it is clear that nothing is more synonymous with shenanigans than the motor home.
When I first moved to Utah, I was awe-struck by the sight of the old orange motor home. It was impressive that it had stood the test of time. It was originally purchased by Grandma Dot, then passed to Janice and Dean, and then to Grandma Nancy. A couple of her kids had taken possession of it, but it was getting old, and ultimately needed to be retired. If it had only lasted a few years longer it would have seen that orange color come back en-vogue.
Hastening the old motor home’s retirement, was a newer motor home given to Nancy by her son Mike.
Whether it was with old or new motor home, many of you probably have your own memories of grandma and her traveling adventures. Stories include:
- Getting the motor home stuck in the mud in Jana’s back yard in Houston
- The car dolly coming unhitched from the motor home while driving
But one of my favorites is sort of a culmination of all my greatest Grandma memories. It was the spring of 2000. For Grandma, spring cleaning meant getting the motor home ready. She always liked to get things ready several weeks ahead of a trip departure. The family reunion was that summer in my home state of Minnesota.
Grandpa Bob wanted to get a hitch for the new motor home, and asked that I come along with him to U-haul in-case there were any technical questions that he wanted explained.
So we set off from 797 South 350 West to U-haul, a journey no longer than one mile.
Shortly after turning onto 5th West, Grandma Nancy was already on Bob’s case for apparently not driving aggressively enough. I don’t recall if he turned or merged too slowly or what, but Nancy was clearly irked.
To counter, Bob steered the motor home rather aggressively into the U-haul lot on the right, after only feathering the brake lightly. It was at this precise moment I came to realize something: during her spring cleaning Grandma Nancy had opened every cupboard in the kitchen of the motor home… and they were still open.
As the motor home rocked to the left, styrofoam cups, utensils, paper towels and cleaning supplies all came flying out of the cupboards as if they had exploded. The motor come swayed back to the right and the tupperware and non-perishable foods came flying out from the other side.
“Bob!” – Grandma Nancy exclaimed as the motor home finally came to a rest, with all contents of the kitchen thoroughly spilled on the floor.
Some of these motor home stories were fraught with so much danger, that it really surprises me that no one ever got hurt. But I think these adventures were all part of the spirit of Grandma Nancy. To her, life was not a quick trip, but a wandering journey full of stops along the way with good friends and family.