She wanted taps. Normally the song is reserved for those who have served our country in the military (“was she a veteran?” many asked), but she had insisted that that was what she wanted. The trumpet player said Kathy was the only person he would make that exception for. She wasn’t a veteran, and she didn’t serve in any foreign wars, but in her mind she had performed a similar duty. Suffering for the family, suffering for the Lord — it was that sometimes serious, sometimes cheeky self-approval that we always found funny.
Kathleen Joan Ranum Bauder passed away last Thursday. She was my grandmother and my friend. When I first found out, one of my co-workers asked me if we were close. The answer was yes, both in a relational and a geographical sense. For almost my entire life we have lived in the same town. When I was a baby we lived in Mt. Shasta where she taught me to eat redvines and sing patriotic hymns (both activities i still like to participate in to this day).
We all moved down to Nampa together, and they lived in the same house for a long time (briefly renting it out for their stints in B.C. and Phoenix). I grew up playing in their sprinklers, making radio shows with my cousins and watching Raffi tapes. She was a great grandma. It was like her job. It spilled out onto other kids who weren’t related to her, but were in need of someone to give them the gentle kindness only a grandmother can give.
When I was little she would tell me stories about her adventures in Africa (she has one anecdote about a wedding she attended that is for sure one of the funniest things i’ve ever heard). When I was in junior high, and it was summer and I didn’t have any friends to hang out with, she played about a million hands of ‘Flinch’ with me (she was a very competitive flinch player).
It was very common for Kathy to call over to our house so she could tell me a joke. I don’t where she got them, but they were all bad (corny, campy kind of bad). They were famously bad jokes. I think she tried to find the worst ones. But somehow, I always found myself telling them.
Another one of her amusing hobbies was being nosy. Kathy kept a police scanner so that if the sound of sirens passed by her house, she could know what they were up to. She was always formulating unsupported opinions about her neighbors based on clandestine observations. After taking a course on drug awareness the city put on, and which I was forced to attend (a program designed for my grandmother — it gave her just enough information to make her feel like John Walsh or something), she was always labeling various pedestrians as “heroin addicts” or “high on pcp.”
Part of me thinks it’s weird to feel sad about her death. I hardly visited at all over the past year. It was too painful. I couldn’t bear to see this pillar of my childhood slowly become like a child again. I guess I feel guilty about it.
I don’t really know what I believe about heaven. I’m pretty sure that all the “streets of gold” stuff is just those new testament guys getting poetic. After my dad sent me the text saying “gramma is gone.” I sat thinking about it. I had this picture in my head of a place where you get to experience love, all the love that you gave and all the love others gave to you, combined with the unceasing and untempered love of God. I want to believe that Kathy is in a place like that. Because she gave a lot of love. It’s such a cliche, but that’s ok. It’s true.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about today.