Helyn – A modern woman
January 24th, 1915 t0 June 22nd, 2016
Helyn (changed from the old fashioned “Helen”)
was not a traditional mother or grandmother
except that she liked to be pretty as women do
with her lovely wardrobe of stylish dresses,
layers of petty coats to fill out her slight frame,
and attention to her beauty and quiet charisma in community plays.
She lived younger than her age.
She wasn’t ready to be “grandma”
and preferred the title “super gram” over “great grandmother.”
She referred to pruney old ladies
because she never was a pruney old lady
with her hair perfectly done
and lip stick expertly applied before leaving the house.
She always looked 20 years younger than her age,
as if she would ever tell you her age.
She was a modern woman,
a working mother before there were working mothers.
She went to college, not to find a man,
but to start a career.
She worked from high school to 93
having two lifetimes of jobs.
She had the ordered, quick mind of a
court reporter, accountant, and church secretary
yet a disordered house with
stick pins, pennies, and plenty of papers lying about.
This wasn’t an obstacle to her love of entertaining however.
Clutter could be quickly swept away
even hidden in the dryer
to expose the elegance of her home.
A wall of beautiful antique clocks,
framed prints of famous paintings,
a hmong art quilt and a family quilt hanging on the wall.
A grand porch and blooming rose bush,
delicate rose china in the cabinet,
and a booming, ebony grandfather clock in the corner.
There was music plunked out by grandchildren
on a table top organ,
card tables pulled out for “hand and foot,”
bridge club and occasionally sheepshead.
At holidays she’d gather her big family
serving them her German potato salad
and moist Thanksgiving stuffing.
There were always five gallon tubs of ice cream
in the garage freezer
and plenty of food left out on the table for snackers.
She was a modern thinker too
up on politics, economics, and church business.
She read Time magazine and watched Dr. Oz.
She believed that women could do anything
and didn’t need to take the traditional path of marriage and children.
We lost grandpa to a heart attack at age 61,
she contently never remarried or even dated.
She traveled to far flung places,
expressed educated opinions,
and had a dry, witty humor.
She had a soft spot for men who needed a mother figure
yet she wasn’t a push over.
She was the disciplinarian of the family
Dad had the soft heart and gentle ways.
The rubber hose above the door frame
was her threat to naughty children.
She was a survivor.
Survivor of a childhood with little money
although rich in intellect and possibilities.
She survived cancer
and survived watching her children battle their cancers and trials.
She outlived a husband, a beloved daughter-in-law, and all her siblings
yet had the fortune to have never lost a child past infancy.
Helyn lived until her final few months
in her hometown, in her marital home on the farm.
She loved the Pope
yet cherished and held onto life tightly.
She used to say,
“I am going to live forever. Someone has to be the first, why not me.”
Only when approaching 100 years old
did she scale back that goal to 102
and upon turning 101 bumped it up to 105.
Not quite forever, but close.
What a gift to have had a mother and grandmother,
a matriarch, to us and to a small town community,
for more than a century.
She was our pivot point,
a person who taught us about strength and making opportunities
and being true to yourself.
We will remember you always, Helyn, as a modern, strong, spirited woman.
We all love you.