It's my privilege to share about Grandma on behalf of her five grandchildren. Ryan Ford could not be here today, he's an ER nurse in NC. This is my little brother Tom Bilen, from Waterford, VA and this is my little sis from Thornton, CO and my cousin Lindsay Ford from Damascus, MD.
We have many fond memories of Grandma, but one that sticks out for all of us was that Grandma loved to play cards, and she taught us all. She was a great bridge player, and was in two different bridge clubs. She really wanted me to learn bridge because “it's a smart person's game, and you're very smart, you'd be good at it.” So I'd play two hands of honeymoon bridge with her to make her happy, and then I'd have her teach me poker. We played lots of poker. She taught me a lot of different poker games, she had a lot of chips that we kids got to play with as we wanted to, but with me, we used them for their intended purpose. We got to take turns spending the night alone at Grandma's house on weekends, and that was such a special treat. Her apartment was so elegant and different from our house, and she treated us like little adults. We got to drink coke not milk with dinner, and we got to sleep in her king size bed with her.
Grandma was a ferocious knitter. She knitted probably a hundred sweaters over the years. She kept track of whose turn it was, and then it would be a special trip to the knitting shop to pick out a pattern and the yarn. Then it seemed like only a week would go by and there would be your sweater, looking just like the picture! No matter how complicated, she could do it. It was only as I got older and paid attention that I realized how much the yarn cost as they rang us up, and how much it cost to have the sweaters assembled by the knitting shop. She spoiled us this way.
Grandma also made sure that we had the skills we needed for success in life. She taught me to balance a checkbook at the age of ten, and insisted that I learn to type as soon as it was offered in school, but graciously typed all my research papers until I could do it myself. She had taken secretarial classes and could type over 100 words a minute with amazing accuracy. She was a very frugal spender (well except for the sweaters...) and stressed the importance of savings and budgeting. She was a financial whiz and fairly well off, but didn't flaunt it.
I do remember one extravagance though, and Melinda and I were the recipients of and amazing vacation. She took us on a cruise when we were in college and it was a trip to remember.
Grandma was a gracious hostess and always put on a great buffet. She loved to experiment with jello and made some very interesting concoctions. I know that some of them came from actual recipes, like Pacific Lime Mold (the name “mold” always scared me...) but personally, I don't like cottage cheese, and certainly NOT in my jello. The running joke was always, “What would Grandma put in the jello this time.” Well, we really weren't expecting what we encountered that one famous time. We had learned to approach her jello mold with caution, and this particular time it was a good thing. From the kitchen we hear, “Where is my band-aid?” almost in unison with, “What is that in the jello this time?” Sure enough, her band-aid had somehow made itself Jello!!!!!!!
Grandma Vivian, you were amazing, and I miss you. Thanks for loving us so well.