It can never be said that John’s grandmother failed to make us laugh. Even after a “grand performance” we were always able to laugh after the fact. Eleanor Conradson was responsible for taking John to the beach as a little boy and for taking lots of pictures of him growing up. With parents who ran their own bakery and had four older sons, it’s not surprising that John’s parents were very busy and might not have taken many photos of anyone, let alone John. John has said at times that if it wasn’t for his Grandma, there would have been no photos of him as a child.
She loved to laugh and make other people laugh. Sometimes I think she didn’t realize that we laughed at her expense, but I think she still enjoyed the sound of her family being happy.
One of her memorable expressions was “he’s a horse’s ass!” and she applied it liberally to all comers.
The first family dinner we had together with my family and John’s, Grandma talked about her digestive problems. At the dinner table. At Thanksgiving.
She survived breast cancer twice when a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. 30 years after her diagnosis, she told me this little story. “My doctor said I had no more than five years to live! Now he’s dead and I’m still going!”
I have a wonderful memory of her dancing at our wedding at the age of 84 and tiring out her great-grandson David Jr. The photographers thought she was a hoot and took a lot of pictures. Our minister found her to be “snappy” when he complemented her peach colored dress and she corrected him. “Thank you, but it’s salmon.”
At a more recent family dinner, she arrived wearing a blouse that had an eyelet design. She called it air conditioning and thought it was very considerate of the manufacturer to make this convenience for people who bought the blouse. During the same evening we had wine. Of course we had wine! She wandered into the kitchen while I was preparing the dinner and asked if we had any Pepsi. “Well, I have Diet Pepsi, is that okay?” I said. I figured she wanted to change to soda, but no, not Grandma. “Oh, no, I like a little Pepsi in my wine to make it sweeter,” she said as she poured Diet Pepsi into her glass of Merlot. I don’t recall the brand, but even some Charles Shaw would be forever tainted with carbonated soda. Later we laughed until we cried. About two weeks later at lunch, she put iced tea into her wine and I had to bite my tongue not to laugh out loud.
She was a full blooded Norwegian and had blond hair with very little gray, piercing blue eyes and was stubborn. She liked to walk without her walker because it was inconvenient, even though her daughter Marie would scold her every time. She enjoyed her two cats, Sheba and Lily, she loved seeing her great-grandchildren, especially Melody, who she called Little John toward the end.
On Monday last week, we visited her at the nursing home where she’s been living for about the last year. The lady in the bed next to her was upset because she could not find the nurses call button. She kept saying “I can’t find my button. I need to push my button!” Grandma looked at me and said “I’ll go push her button!”
I won’t spoil this tribute with any of the other, less humorous memories, just leave it at “she was not perfect.”
Grandma succumbed to her health problems this morning. She had recently been diagnosed with brain, bone and breast cancer, and had two strokes. We will miss her greatly.
October 11, 1919 – January 12, 2009