Set Another Place for Tea

7 12 2009

We just got word this morning that Anna’s great-grandmother, Marion Lauterbach (“Nanny”), passed away early this morning.  She was 100 years old.

The picture here shows Anna reading one of Nanny’s birthday cards to her.  This was Nanny’s 97th birthday.

I am not the right one to tell you all about Nanny’s life.  But I can tell you a few stories about her that will give you an idea of who she was and the joy that she brought to people.

Nanny has always been a strong, independent woman.  She continued to live in her own home by herself up until the end.  For the last several years, however, her three daughters (including my mother-in-law) have taken turns spending the night with her.  Anna able to follow along on one of those overnight stays.  I think it shook her up a little bit.  When she came home she said it was kind of a rough night.  Apparently Nanny woke up in the middle of the night and started yelling “Fish! Fish!” at the top of her lungs.  That turned into one of our family jokes, when one of us would walk around and start yelling, “Fish!”

When Nanny was about 95, I am sure that I have the age wrong, she broke her ankle.  The doctor was very compassionate, but said that at her age, she would never walk again.  Her bones would not heal, and certainly not well enough for her to put her weight on them.  Nanny had the cast off and was walking again in about six weeks.

Nanny made my mom very happy one time.  My parents came to Richmond on one occasion and we all went out to Nanny’s house to see her.  I think this would have been the occasion of Anna’s memorial service in Richmond.  When Nanny met my parents she asked my mother how old she was.  My mother replied that she was 78 years old, to which Nanny gave a dismissive turn of the head and said, “Oh, you’re just spring chicken.”  My mom had never been told that before.  She turned to me with the biggest smile and laugh.

As Nanny got older her memory started to go.  It became very selective.  A homorous event happened at her 100th birthday party.  Nanny had a chair set and all the well-wishers came by and sat in a circle of chairs around her to visit.  Timberley and I came over towards the end of the party.  Timberley sat down next to her and began talking to her.  Nanny had too many visitors at that point and I think she just could not place Timberley.  We explained that was her grand-daughter, and that she was Norma’s daughter.  All to no avail.  Just then my father walked up.  She had met him only one time a year earlier.  We asked if she remembered him, and she lit up and said, “Oh, of course I do, how you doin’, Dick?”  We all just laughed.

I appreciate my time with Nanny.  Being 100 years old gives a person a certain privilege to say what one wants.  We always had very direct conversations about faith.  She had none of the usual inhibitions that our culture has, even among Christians, speaking about matters of faith.  She just spoke her mind.  I always found that very refreshing.

Anna (with a curtsey and her best British accent):  Would you like another cup of tea, mum?

Grandma Deloris:  Why yes, Anna, I think I would.

Aunt Alice:  I’m still on my first cup, Anna, but I will have another cookie.

Deloris:  Well look who’s coming!

Anna:  Oh my, I will have to set another place.  (Clapping her hands, she calls for Maid Nesty, but when no one appears, she begins gathering the things herself.)

Alice:  I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her.

Nanny:  What are all you young things doing?   Pour me some tea, Anna.  It sure is good to rest now, isn’t it Deloris?