The beautiful Genevieve and handsome Bill Boian on their wedding day in 1941
Yesterday was a sad day. Jenny’s maternal grandmother, Genevieve “Chum” Boian, passed away at the age of 93.
Chum was one of the kindest, tiniest women you’ll ever meet. Fueled by coffee and honey buns, she was sharp until the last, always current with and interested in what you were doing.
Jenny and I visited with her shortly before we moved to South Africa. She was very excited for and proud of her granddaughter, and encouraged us to make the most of our year here. Of course, she also extolled us to write as often as possible.
We also spoke with her by phone a couple of times after we moved, and once we got the news that she was in her final days, Jenny found a way to travel home in time to say goodbye and be with her family.
I know Jenny considers herself fortunate to have had her grandmother for so long. Her passing now leaves us both without grandparents, which does seem strange. And, obviously, sad.
In the nearly 15 years Jenny and I have been together, I had a chance to spend a fair amount of time with Chum, and her late husband, Bill, as well.
One day in late 1997 or early 1998 I stopped by their house on my way home from delivering an age-appropriate sexuality/contraception presentation to a class at Chenoa High School. I was working for Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, IL at the time, a topic not frequently discussed, though I think generally accepted as “pretty much OK” with her. What I remember most about the day — aside from her generously cooked pork chops, which she kindly offered upon my arrival — was showing her and Bill the Internet on my laptop.
As far as we all knew, they had never before experienced the wonders of the Web. So, I plugged in to their kitchen phone jack, dialed the toll-free number of the ISP and voilà! We were online.
But what does “online” mean? What could I show them that would express the importance and necessity of…whatever this is?
Without enough thought, I searched for the City of Chenoa website – something I knew they would recognize. Once the pixels came together and the page finally loaded, they could see “City of Chenoa” and a picture of the water tower. They oohed and aahed, just like any grandparent would. I could have been showing them a pretty rock I just found. “Well isn’t that lovely?”
Soon, though, Grandpa Bill deadpanned, “Now why would I want to look at a picture of the water tower on a computer when I can just step outside and see the real thing?”
And, I think, the end of the demonstration.
Chum also had a habit of calling those she loved “Dear.” It was sweet. However, she said it so often that an actual deer once heard the call and lumbered into her living room.
A few years back, while she was living at Blair House, a retirement village in Bloomington, she returned from breakfast to find a real, live deer in her apartment. Situated near garden level, the apartment had a large window facing the lawn, which an unfortunate deer apparently mistook for a gateway to greener pastures. It crashed through, but was unable to find its way out.
Dazed, confused and bleeding from the broken glass, the deer was floundering on the bathroom floor when Chum entered the apartment. She saw a stain on the carpet and heard rustling in the bathroom and thought a maintenance man was doing some repairs. She remained in the outside hallway and closed the door. Eventually, an employee came by, saw her standing in front of her door and inquired. Well, it didn’t take long to learn the true score.
After the deer was handled and everyone was safe, Chum was left with a nearly unlivable apartment and a rather odd renter’s insurance claim. There was busted furniture, shattered glass and bloodstained carpet to remedy. The insurance adjuster tried to lowball her. “Act of God,” I think he argued. The normally sweet, four-foot-nothin’ Chum wasn’t havin’ it. She laid it on thick and asked him if he really thought that was the right thing to do. In the end, he relented, the poor dear.
So, with these and other fond memories, we say goodbye to dear Grandma Chum. May she rest in peace.