des moines, Faith and Values, Iowa, People

HOT SHEET: Six lessons from Grandma Lois, 1927 to 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Show up. That’s the first lesson of the life of my grandmother, Lois Newcomb. Her lawn chair planted in the grass beside bleachers at uncounted softball and baseball games of her grandchildren and she cheered from the stands during football and basketball seasons. She told you how good a job you did even if you struck out and dropped a ball in the outfield. Going to the games was fun for her, but it reassured her seven grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren that you mattered to her and she was always cheering for you.

ITEM TWO: Eat well. Grandma Lois loved to host holiday gatherings at her home, and later, at her apartment at Valley View Village. We all squeezed into her living room and ate turkey, mountains of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and her special “burn and serve” dinner rolls that she never quite got out of the oven at the right time. Families sometimes fracture as children grow to adults and move away or hard feelings develop of misunderstandings and slights. But for three or four hours on a holiday, our bellies were full, the laughs came easy and often because we were welcome, warm and safe at Grandma’s house.

ITEM THREE: Love first and always. Grandma Lois lived 92 years. She grew up in Granger during the Great Depression in World War II. She lived before television to an age with supercomputers that fit into a pocket. Her husband died at 45 and she found herself a single working mother. Through her own family, she lived through what would have seemed unthinkable in the 1930s – divorce, teen pregnancies, mixed-race grandchildren and great grandchildren, LGBTQ+ grandchildren and so much more. She even learned about the struggles of a sad and angry teenage boy who came to live with her eldest daughter, Joyce Rogers, and her husband, Bob Rogers. All the changes in the world she saw through her family and she met them all same way – with love.

ITEM FOUR: Keep the faith. Grandma Lois loved church. She sang in the choir. She reveled in the fellowship. She worshipped at the now-defunct Calvary Baptist Church in Des Moines and later at the chapel at Valley View Village. She seldom missed a Sunday. She lived faith the way Jesus taught his followers. She was slow to anger. She forgave easily. She loved her neighbors like they were her own family. Her family came at faith from many different perspectives. She seldom evangelized, but she welcomed you by her side at church and quoted the Bible on occasion. She lived her faith with quiet dignity. She was not the kind of person who needed to tell you she was a Christian. One could tell by the way she lived her life. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

ITEM FIVE: Hugs. Grandma Lois never ended a visit without a hug and kiss from her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren — which often came with a whispered “I love you” in your ear. The typist regrets he often treated such affections as perfunctory when life’s other distractions tugged at his attention. For today, he would trade just about anything for one more hug and kiss from Grandma.

ITEM SIX: Lois Newcomb died shortly after 7 p.m., Monday, at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. She was 92 years old. God blessed her with her own mind and body until the final days. She went to the hospital Saturday. The day before she rode the exercise bike. Fluid built up in her tissues. Her heart failed. Her children surrounded her in the final moments. Had she been well enough, she would have given them all a hug and a kiss and whispered “I love you” in their ears.

ITEM LAST: Hot Sheet asks its loyal readers to remember your elders, many of whom are physically cut off from their family and loved ones due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. Make a call, by phone or Zoom, or send an email or even a letter. Maybe you can’t be there in person but find a way to show up and express your love and accept the love your elders have for you. This is the true marrow of life. Mark those moments, because the reality of life is one day all you will have is memories.

Grandma Lois Newcomb and her grandson, Daniel P. Finney. The photo is blurry because it’s seen through tears.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

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