My mother's family, the Stams, were a force in my life and, in fact, a force in many lives. They were unrepentant, to use an ironic adjective, fundamentalists who believed in God, Jesus, death and resurrection and most importantly, heaven and hell. Those facts, as they saw them, informed the lives of both of my parents as well. As I remember my life, the one ray of love and affection that shone through these iron-clad beliefs was my Grandmother Stam. Where her husband was aloof, certain, distant, but not unkind, Grandma Stam could actually show affection for her grandchildren.
"She is French, you know, Dickie, and they are much more emotional than the Dutch!"
"Oh. OK. Glad to know that mom and dad."
I learned early in life that the Stams were, in this order, educated, religious, and I mean religious, severe, hard-working, important, and destined for heaven. Nowhere in that list of qualities was there love....except for Grandma Stam. I suppose the difficulty I have in conjuring up many actual memories of her, rather than a sort of sense of what she was, is because she was so different from the rest.
She did have a beautiful voice and always sang for family gatherings with her husband accompanying her on the piano. Her, and my, favorite was "His Eye is on the Sparrow." I eagerly awaited the moment in the song when her lovely alto voice had to drop several notes into almost a bass note with this refrain. "His eye is on the spa'----now drop down several notes---"row, and I know he watches me." Perfect pitch, grandma!
I can hear her voice, see her sparkling eyes and white hair and feel the emotion, that French flair of hers, as she finished that song.