Recently, a pastor got a bit of attention from media when he shared the sentences he wrote and posted on the door of his father's new home — a room in a care center for those with dementia.
The story about Patrick Mead and his father, inspired me to do the same thing for my grandmother. She has experienced several strokes, is confined to a wheelchair and can only say one or two words at a time. She can no longer tell you about her life, but I can.
Grandma was born Yeteve Thomas in Indiana in 1929. Her name, which is pronounced "yuh-TEEVE," was given to her by her mother. According to grandma, her mother knew of a little girl with the same name from church and asked that girl's mother if she would mind if she named her own child Yeteve as well. Thus began a lifetime of grandma having to tell everyone how to spell her name.
Yeteve was an only child and was very outgoing and energetic. I don't know how old she was at the time, but I remember her telling me about how she broke her leg as a little girl after falling off the stage at a movie theater during a roller skating routine.
Grandma met Earl Middleton in high school. They married in 1951, right after he was drafted into the Army. Earl came home to a bouncing baby boy, the first of five children — three boys and two girls —that would join the family.
As a mother, Yeteve encouraged her children to do their best in school, be polite to all, attend church and appreciate the simple joys in life. The Middletons often vacationed in Canada, camping with friends and spending time in nature.
Yeteve supported her husband in his work and even worked with him to start a telephone cord cleaning company after they moved to Lebanon, Missouri. Yes, she and the children tackled the tasks of cleaning and re-coiling phone cords. It was a short-lived endeavor, though, and she would then take a job at a dress store before becoming a realtor for a short time.
After all their children were grown and gone, Earl and Yeteve moved to Wichita, where she worked at Shepler's for several years. Later, she took a job managing Twin Lakes Apartments, which served as their home in Wichita for more than a decade.
Earl and Yeteve moved to a home on the west side of Wichita and became members of Hope Mennonite Church.
In their new house, grandma started a business called The Alternative Choice, selling home school curriculum out of her basement. I'll never forget the plaque she kept on her desk that read "a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
About 15 years ago, Earl and Yeteve wisely decided to downsize and moved to Schowalter Villa in Hesston. There they made many new friends with whom they played games of dominoes or Rummikub or just chatted over coffee whenever they weren't busy heading up various committees.
Yeteve currently has 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Grandma taught me many things — from how to use a sewing machine to speaking up for myself despite my shyness. I remember the brown glassware on her table, the novelty of the stove-top popcorn she would make us and the African violets she always kept on her kitchen windowsill.
One of grandma's favorite sayings was immortalized in a cross-stitch hanging made by my mother. The framed fabric reads, "if you see something that needs doing, do it yourself — or shut up!"
Grandma took up drawing and watercolor painting in her retirement years, capturing still lifes of shoes, tricycles or the birds she saw outside her window.
Earl died on Christmas Eve in 2007. Not long after, Yeteve's health began to decline.
Despite her current physical limitations, she is known to the staff and other residents as being one of the most cheerful and pleasant people at Schowalter Villa. My father and I regularly visit grandma, and rarely a week goes by when someone does not tell us, "oh, I just love Yeteve." Whenever she is asked how she feels, my grandmother will smile and answer, "fine."
My goal in life is to age as gracefully as she did, keeping faith in God's plan no matter what comes.
I love you, grandma.