Wednesday, August 4, 2010


She had great taste.

I mean, that doesn't sum up her life completely. Her life included love, intelligence, generosity, and so many other things, but when you picture Barbara King, you picture fancy. Elegant. Beautiful. And completely, totally, without exception, spotless.

Looking back at the perfectly decorated house with the sparkling kitchen, always-vacuumed floors, and oh my cow, the GIANT, WHITE COUCH, it makes me think that she must have cringed when we came over growing up. I mean, kids are messy! Kids are disgusting! Kids break things! And that definitely wasn't a kid-friendly house.

But to be completely honest, that thought never occurred to me once until now (although admittedly we did know we weren't supposed to play on the white couch). Growing up, it was grandma's house, where we would play pool in the basement (sans cues because, let's face it, it's way more fun to throw the white ball at the other balls with your hand than try to figure out how to use that big stick to do it). It's where we would play in the hot tub out back with the little ducks floating around with us, and it's one of the only places we ever saw snow. It's where we would drive the golf cart around and it was where we would always, always find Fig Newtons, baby swiss cheese, and Oatmeal crisp cereal.

If our being there bothered her, she never let us know it.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. She adored us. She would cook for hours and then hardly even sit down to dinner with us because she was so concerned with making sure we had everything we wanted while we were eating. "Do you want more steak, Kent?" "Here, have some more potatoes, Jim." "Would you like some more ice cream, kids?" One thing we knew for sure is that you would never go hungry in the King house. In fact, within seconds of walking through the door you would be listening to long inventory list of everything she had in her kitchen as she eagerly awaited your telling her what you would like to eat.

I think her love language was food.

My grandma was a ridiculously smart woman. She ran her own businesses for as long as I can remember, and her shrewd investments made it possible for her to make many, many more shrewd investments. And what she had, she gave away. She took care of every member of our family that needed it. Hospital bills, living expenses, even living arrangements. When her nieces and nephew found themselves without parents in their adolescence, she took them in and raised them. She was so, so generous.

Growing up, we'd get a check in the mail from Grandma, along with another slightly smaller check for the sibling of the birthday child. She never left anybody out. More recently, she would send a check to our spouses on their birthdays as well. Growing up, we would roll her change together for hours and then she'd let me keep all of it. She bought both mine and my brother's Aggie rings. When my mom and I would visit, she would let us "shop" in her closet and insist we take home some of her beautiful clothing, many times, with the tags still on. For our wedding, my grandmother lavished gifts on us, and I never use my amazing cookware, vacuum cleaner, or GPS without thinking of her. There's not one member of our family who didn't benefit from her generosity.

Grandma Barbara wanted what was best for everyone, all the time. And when what she thought was best was different than what you thought was best, she let you know it. The woman was headstrong and opinionated, that's for sure. But her letting you know it was her way of loving you.

And she did love us.

When I called her about once a week, she would answer the phone, and as soon as she heard my voice, she got all excited, and I was suddenly in the middle of the conversation that she had evidently been having in her head with me before I called. I told her about my day at work and what I had been crafting lately, and I heard all about what she had cooked for my grandfather that night, what she was cleaning, what she had bought that day, and how she was decorating their new house.

She had been putting that house together for about a year now. It's their second home, which they just put out on their ranch in South Dakota so they could spend their summers there. My grandfather maintains a mini-farm there with everything from flowers and cucumbers to melons and corn, and they both loved it there. She would tell me how excited she was about the sweet corn he was growing and about the little frogs that hopped around her porch in the evening. She would describe the decor she had ordered and lament the delivery that the furniture company had screwed up.

She was pouring her heart into that house. But that was nothing new for her. She poured her heart into everything she did.

After she died, Grandpa decided he wanted to stay in South Dakota instead of moving back to their house in Wyoming. It's a more suitable size, and there is much for him to do on the ranch. It's where he is comfortable.

As we gathered at this beautiful house after she passed away this weekend, it hit us all.

She built it for him.

Because of her, he had a place to come home to.

And because of Christ, so did she.
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