Here's what I read at Grandma Helen Ost's funeral. Some of you may know her from being a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher, I believe at Hartford Elementary. She also volunteered as a bowling coach for 5th District VFW bowling for more years than she taught. I bowled for a number of years on Saturday morning and then more years when I was older on Sunday morning. I talk about those years at Lecher's Lanes, Olson's Skore More Lanes, as well as our last years at Silverbird Lanes. Helen Sophia Ost lived in Oakfield, Wisconsin after retiring from teaching.

As I was sitting right over there last night, all alone, I realized the impact of Grandma being gone. You see, I’m not always the most outgoing, and normally Grandma would have come over and talked to me at a family gathering, always positive about whatever I chose to do in life. I’m lucky enough to have a wife and a mom that can talk my arm off, but they were busy last night, so I sat there when I wasn’t chasing Helena and contemplated the ways we’d all miss Grandma and the memories I’d had with her....

 

 

I’ve heard many people describe Helen Ost as spunky or as a firecracker, and my mom and I even picked out a little sword pin for her to wear because of her sharp tongue and wit, but I learned to measure my grandma by more than just that eventually. Granted, when I was young, Grandma Ost scared me a little, partially because I was afraid of what she might say. Even when I started bowling on Saturday mornings in the bowling league she helped run for 30 years, I was often embarrassed. The other kids didn’t always appreciate being told how to behave, and I sometimes pretended I didn’t know her after she had to yell at the other kids for things like standing on the seats or punching the wall after a miss, but I eventually realized what she did and who she affected meant a lot to those kids and to me.

 

I went through my memory box last night and found a few items to help me remember a bit about bowling with Grandma. Here’s one of my first patches. 225. If you’re good at math, you realize that’s 75 per game. I was a little guy and I had to learn. Grandma was always there to teach me, even if I fought it. Eventually, I worked my way up to the 125 patch and I’m sure a few others. At some point I took a couple years off during middle school because of my paper route, and those are the years I probably needed someone to yell at me more.

 

One day while in high school, my mom asked if I wanted to bowl again. I wasn’t sure. I was never that great at it, but Grandpa had died while I was in 7th grade, and I sort of wanted to make sure I spent some more time with Grandma, so I did it. At first, it bothered me again that Grandma was jumping on kids who acted up and always yelling “my turn” until they were completely silent for her introduction, but I was older and my perspective had changed. I saw kids from the neighborhood around the bowling alley who weren’t exactly ultra-wealthy and maybe didn’t get the best grades or have to most loving parents, and I saw them listening to Grandma. She taught them respect, kicking and screaming like I did once, and they all loved her for it, even if they grumbled once in a while.

 

Eventually I got my 550 patch and my 600 patch, but I was never all that good at bowling. However, I’ve got these and many more perfect attendance patches because I realized how much the league meant to Grandma, me, and all those other kids. One of my last years in the league, Grandma yelled at some new kid, who said “Who’s that mean old lady?” to the guy next to him. The veteran of the league told the rookie, “Dude, shut up, that’s his Grandma” as he pointed at me. “That’s right,” I thought to myself. “No one else’s grandma was driving 100 miles a week to run a bowling league with 100 some-odd kids for thirty years as a volunteer. And you know what, I bet no one else’s grandma ever will.

 

So that’s partially why Grandma and I could always talk. We never even reminisced about bowling much…it’s not like there were too many last second shots or game-winning home runs, but she was always right there next to me, unlike when she dragged Grandpa to watch me play little league once. Besides, Grandma was always more interested in the present and future. And maybe my own more vibrant memories are staying up late in the shed and watching Rockford Files with Grandma and Grandpa before and venturing out to the out-house in complete darkness, or traveling to Montana and Dodge City with Grandma, or consistently falling off horses and mini bikes while visiting her house, but that bowling league was one of the most important things grandma could do for me and for so many others. Grandma always promoted an education and said no one could take that from you, but just as importantly, no one can take our memories of Helen Ost from any of us.

 <-->