Annelore “Annie” Klara Grüb Shrable, my grandmother, passed away Sunday night August 7. She would have been 88 on Thursday the 11th. My cousins contributed memories of Granny Shrable, and I had the honor of weaving them into this. There aren’t enough words to encompass her whole life. If I tried, I would have to tell you about Granny’s childhood under Hitler in Nazi Germany. But the thing was, Granny barely told us about that. So, this eulogy is the world through an Annie Shrable grandchild’s eyes. Boy. We were the lucky ones.
I am one of Annie Shrable’s twenty-two grandchildren. You’ll notice [in the funeral program] we are honorary pall bearers. We will not carry her casket today. We will carry something just as precious, though. We will carry hearts full with memories of a woman who, in a million small ways, built a life a continent away from her birthplace, in a hillside home vastly different from how she had been raised. I often wonder about the thoughts that went through her head as she crossed an ocean. She had one child in her arms then. But could she have ever dreamed that one day seventy-three people – child, grand, and great – would call her some version of the word mother? And though we carry her today, she has carried us in infinite ways.
She carried us as new babies. Bringing your baby home to meet Grandma Shrable was very special. She loved to hold and sing to each one of the babies. And though we might have called her Grandma, or Grandma Shrable, or even Granny, we NEVER got fancy and called her something like Grandmother. She wasn’t into fuss or frills. She let us know if she hated our haircut or color, or whatever trend we were sporting. When she didn’t approve of what we had done, or said, she’d push those lips together and shake her head.
She kept some of us while our parents worked; others of us knew her through vacations and long summer visits. Those were sun-soaked days of softball games in the yard, watermelon under the trees, grandpa mowing the lawn too short and grandma fussing at him, visits to milk and feed the cows, shooting turtles in the pond , trying to catch glimpses of calves being born, watching her get worked up over televised Razorback games or Cowboy games or even just Wheel of Fortune, playing Password with her, getting beat at Bible Trivia, sniffing her signature Sand and Sable bottle of perfume, swatting flies on the front porch and playing with the ever-present kittens, going through the closets that connected and thinking we were in a secret portal instead of just her winter clothes, letting us put rollers in her hair and drive matchbox cars on her back. Or at Christmas time – there was never a year that her tree didn’t sport multi-colored lights and silver tinsel. There was never a year we weren’t given all the sugar cookies we could ever hope to eat.
She carried the food! Her kitchen was never high-end. Sometimes she acted a little embarrassed by it. I don’t think she ever understood that to us, it was the most beautiful place on earth. In a house where the door was never locked, and you never had to knock or ask permission to come in, she often greeted you from her seat by the stove, sometimes waving that odd little knife she used to peel thousands of potatoes for endless bowls of potato salad. She peeled tomatoes from her garden. She always took the skin off to make them easier for us to eat.
She gave her seat up during meals, though, when the men would eat first while the women waited on them. We never thought this was strange, having grown up that way, but bring in a new boyfriend or girlfriend and you were reminded just how weird it was!
There was always a meal to look forward to. Now, she didn’t know, on that long journey across the ocean, that the meal would often have to have its neck wrung and its feathers plucked by her own hands. But by the time we grandkids came along, she wasn’t focused on catching chickens anymore. She was focused on packing that deep freeze as full of frozen treats as an ice cream truck. I will never, my whole life, forget the groan of the heavy freezer lid being opened over, and over, and over again. Fifty years of giving her grandkids sweets and treats and candies and desserts. This sweet tooth got her in trouble in the last few years when she was supposed to be on a diabetic diet. There were many times one of us would catch her with something sweet and sticky, and she’d just wink.
She carried herself to church each week – once on Wednesday and twice on Sunday. We know that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, but in a world with a loose faith practice, she taught us about discipline and respectful observance. She also taught us that chicken fries best on Sunday.
She carried twenty-seven years’ worth of Viola school children on her little yellow rural-route bus. So many of us have grand memories of riding along with her. It was fun when you weren’t actually going to school. Every Friday, she would let students run into the convenience store in Gepp and get a treat, maybe a sucker or a Slush Puppie. She even paid for the kids on her route who never had money. No one ever went without when Annie Shrable was around.
She shared all she had. Her food, her money, her opinion (her opinion a lot!). She was a strong-minded woman, and she raised a legion of strong-minded people. But she taught us to love one another. She did it through loving us. She never forgot a birthday. Her cards came promptly to all seventy-three of us. In fact, my daughter turned ten just one month before Granny died, and she still received a birthday card with printing that was distinctly Annie Shrable’s handwriting.
She loved us in ways we are just now realizing as we grow older and are able to understand. I mentioned the sugar cookies earlier. My cousin Mindy shares,
“Some of you may not realize, but those little iced sugar cookies in the metal tin lined with waxed paper were very time consuming to make. The temperature of the chilled dough needed to be just right. She would sit in front of the oven to make sure they didn’t turn too brown, batch after batch. The secret to the perfect icing, she told me, was in the scalded milk. I think it was more than that, it was her. Just like the way her pie plate made the strawberry pie taste better. The same way her grater made the cole slaw just perfect, or how her metal pan with the sliding lid made the chocolate dessert perfection.”
These artifacts are what we think of when we think of Grandma. The table. The cookie tins. The chair by the stove. The deep freezer. The school bus. However, they are nothing without the spirit of the woman who turned them into instruments of love, instruments that in her strong hands raised each of us to feel very deeply a love that has marked us for a lifetime. Let me end with this final story. Mindy, who rode Grandma’s bus all her years in school, tells of a day the bus got stuck in deep mud. Granny unloaded the kids one by one and carried them to dry ground.
On her back.
As she has carried each of us.