My mother told me yesterday that my 92 year old grandmother is most likely in the last days of her life. This was not a surprise, as my grandma has been on a downward spiral for at least the last 5 years. She had a stroke. Since that time she has been living in a time when she was young and her parents were alive. She has not really recognized the people of our time who come to visit her, including my mom, her daughter. In fact, Grandma has been convinced that my mother is actually her mother.
This news my mother shared with me has filled my mind and heart with memories of my grandmother. My grandmother was a huge part of my life growing up. My mom and I lived with my grandparents after my parent's divorce when I was 3. Then we moved right next door to them, Mom remarried, and we stayed right there next door.
Grandma is standing in the upstairs hallway of the big house on Main Street. I am about 4 and I am having trouble sleeping because of nightmares. Grandma is under the light, pulling on a lock of her auburn hair, telling me a story to calm me back to sleep.
It is a cold, wintry day and my mom is busy sewing for someone. I am bored and pestering. Grandma gets out some old hats and shawls, and a china tea set and we have a tea party. We talk in our best fake English accents. This is where she gives me the nickname that inspired this blog: Deboria Pea Mildred Anne.
Saturday morning, and I run up the back steps of Grandma's house to the kitchen. Grandma is kneading dough for the bread and rolls she bakes every Saturday. She lets me "punch" the puffy dough down.
Fourth grade music class in my elementary school. Grandma is leading the class in a rhythm exercise, "Ta, Ta, Ti, Ti, Ta," we chant. How many kids can say they had their grandmother as a music teacher?
Grandma is accompanying me on the piano as I practice to sing "The Lord's Prayer" in church on Sunday. It is the first time I will sing in front of a real audience, and I am petrified. Grandma pushes me forward and holds me up with her piano plunking.
Sunday afternoon in summer. My cousins and I are in the backseat of Grandpa's Fury going for a Sunday Drive. Grandpa and Grandma are in the front seat telling us stories from their youth about the places we pass. We feel a connection to the past.
The last semester of college, and I don't have the money for tuition. Grandma pays if for me, allowing me to complete my education, and begin my career as a teacher.
In four days I will be leaving my hometown to move across the country to my first real job as a music teacher. My car is unreliable, to put it kindly. Grandma lends me the money to buy a reliable car, setting in motion my career, and the grown up phase of my life.
The deal on the house will close in one week, my husband and I don't have the $2000 needed to make this happen. It is probably evident how we were able to purchase the home we brought our babies to... Grandma.
The corduroy quilt is in the colors of autumn with accents of black. It is large enough to use as a spread on our queen sized bed. Grandma has stitched it especially for us.
There are several elderly people in the pleasant room. Grandma is sitting in a recliner. She looks at me blankly at first, but then recognition sparks and she is obviously happy to see me.
This writing is all about my Grandma and me, but she was so much more.
As a teacher for nearly 40 years she taught in one room schools, then in a grade school, then music in elementary, and finally as a substitute teacher. Thousands of students have felt her influence over the years.
Music played a key role in her life. She played both the piano and organ. Sundays were spent traveling from one tiny country church to another to play the organ for services. Even with a broken arm at one point!
The county Homemakers group met each month and Grandma rarely missed. She exhibited flowers and crafts, and worked at the county fair every year until she just couldn't anymore.
Grandma's skill with language and her great memory of things long ago, made her a natural to write a column in the local paper about the things she remembered from her past.
The Great Depression made a lasting impact on Grandma, as it did on others who lived through it. She was thrifty, to put it mildly. String, wrapping paper, foil, rubber bands, she saved it all, including money. Her large 5 bedroom house was packed with all the things she felt she needed to save. We chuckled at this and thought how needless all this saving was. However, because of her thrifty ways she was able to help out others in our family, not just me, when they needed money.
After retirement from teaching, Grandma still kept busy. Playing organ at churches, Homemakers, Ladies Evening Circle, Historical Society, writing for the paper, gardening, and travel to name just a few of her activities.
There were times of tragedy for Grandma. When she was a young woman, her best friend was killed in a car accident. Probably the lowest point for her was when her 40 year old son, and his 18 year old son died in an accident on the same terrible day. We all lost part of ourselves that day, but Grandma, more than the rest. "Parents shouldn't outlive their children or grandchildren" became a very real experience for her. But, Grandma overcame her grief and soldiered on with life.
During a trip to Germany and Austria in the 1980s, Grandma filled a small bottle with water from the Rhine River and brought it back to me. She also brought back an Austrian Crystal necklace with my initial on it.
Grandma understood my romantic, impractical ideas and thoughts. Even with her Midwestern practicality. She encouraged me in all I did, practical and not.
I guess that's why I love her so much.