Saturday was Grandma’s 94th birthday! I’m lucky she lives within 30 minutes of me so I popped over to her house in the afternoon with a birthday card and a geranium that I potted up from my garden. Grandma and I share a love of gardening; since the day I met her, I’ve enjoyed exploring her garden when I visit.
Grandma is actually my ex-husband’s grandmother. When my daughter was born, Grandma got a new nickname, Great G, to celebrate her status as a great-grandmother. After the divorce, Great G always remembered my daughter/her great-granddaughter for every birthday and every holiday, sending a card, a gift, always letting my daughter know how very much she was loved. Other than my sister-in-law who I’ve always remained close to, we didn’t have much contact with the rest of the family (for various reasons that really don’t matter after all these years). But Grandma and I exchanged cards and letters from time to time, keeping a bond of love between us. When my daughter grew up, married and had her daughters, I told her we had to go take the girls to see Great G. Oh, Great G just sparkled at seeing her great-great-granddaughters!
To meet Grandma is to love her. A little bit of nothing, she weighs less than 100 lbs. But she’s not frail or fragile in any way! Her hair is always beautifully coifed, as red as it’s always been. Her voice is strong and capable, her movements sure. She has trouble hearing and some sight issues, but nothing stops her. She demonstrated to me Saturday that her hands – even with arthritis in her right one – still have good gripping power for her garden clippers. On a bad day when her two arthritic fingers don’t work correctly, she just bends them around the handles and gardens away!
That’s the kind of woman she is. Never a complaint, never a mean word about anyone (at least to me). She’s resilient and resourceful. No car? No problem. She walks to where she wants to go. The grocery store, church – she gets done what has to be done.
And her stories! I love hearing her stories and Saturday over coffee I enjoyed one after the other. Grandma was born very early on a Sunday morning on October 3, 1915, on the family farm in Kansas City, Kansas, the youngest of her mom’s children. The doctor lived 12 miles away, but he didn’t have a horse and buggy so Grandma’s Daddy took his own horse and buggy to go fetch the doctor. Grandma’s mother knew the menfolk would be hungry so she made breakfast for them so it’d be ready when they returned. Then, at 6am, Grandma was born.
Life on the farm taught her to be strong and take care of what needed taking care of. Every summer there were fruits and vegetables to be canned. The meat was kept in the cold storage (they didn’t have a freezer or electricity) but if the weather warmed up, they’d have to take the meat and can it, too, so it wouldn’t spoil and go to waste.
She grew up, married, had her two daughters. Her husband, though, had a wandering eye and left the family a couple of times. Afterward, she said, he’d always summon her and she would go. (She shook her head with obvious regret as she told me this.) She finally divorced him and bought her home for her and her daughters, telling them that this was it, she wasn’t going to be moving any more. (She’s lived there over 60 years.) She worked at the market deli to support herself and her daughters. And she told herself that she wished he would call. Sure enough, he did, and this petite, strong woman gave him her answer: no, not this time, not ever again. Grandma was smiling and proud of herself as she told me the story, looking strong and young as she remembered.
Until recently, Grandma still hung her laundry out on the clothesline to dry. She had a retractable line in the backyard that she’d pull out from one pole and then pull it across the width of her yard to secure it to the pole on the other side. As she says, “it wan’t a bother.” She’d always done it this way and it’s what she was used to. She finally has a dryer now, though, and when we were in the kitchen fixing coffee, she grinned and told me in a conspiratorial whisper that she really likes how much easier it is to use the dryer. Ha!
She says she likes the church she goes to now, but that she sometimes has a hard time hearing the preacher. Grandma prefers the Baptist church she used to go to, where the preacher spoke more loudly and forcefully. She likes a church, she says, with her face crinkling into a smile, where she can shout “Hallelujah!” The old church is too far to walk, though, so she goes to the one that’s close by, walking to church on Sunday morning and getting a ride back home from a neighbor. I’ve never been in a Baptist church. I think I’ll give her a call in a couple of weeks, and see if she’ll let me take her to her old church. I’m looking forward to shouting a couple of Hallelujahs myself.
Happy birthday, Grandma, you wonderful woman!