Today is my grandma’s birthday. She was born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1909; the only daughter in her family (I believe she had four brothers, but I might be off on that). She was born before the time of electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, automobiles, computers, and many of the other technological advances we enjoy on a daily basis. In her lifetime, there were 2 World Wars, a Great Depression, wonderful advances in civil rights, and a man landed on the moon. There were gas wars, a Cold War, and a president resigned amid scandal. In her life, the Berlin Wall went up and it came down; history happened all around her. Of course, my grandmother made her own history-she married my grandfather, raised four children, and was active in local clubs and her church throughout her life.
I never gave much thought to all the events she lived through. By the time I came along in 1978 (her 9th grandchild), she was thoroughly ensconced as a grandmother. She was the stereotypical widowed, white-haired lady with glasses and an apron. When I came over, strawberries & raspberries were harvested from her enormous yard before breakfast, the newspaper comics were read and cards were played. During the summer, we watched soap operas on her old-style console TV. I helped her cut fabric squares for quilting and we made sun tea in a jar on her concrete patio. I was absolutely enthralled by the fact she had a special cut-out in her wall just for her telephone (rotary dial) and that she lived without a dishwasher, clothes dryer or microwave. She taught me that messed-up recipes can be fixed rather than thrown out, grilled cheese sandwiches are best made with Velveta, and that sometimes in Euchre it’s best to call Clubs trump even if all you have is the 9 of the clubs and the jack of spades.
It is unfortunate, but like all children, I grew up. In spite of my love for my grandma, I thought about her less and less; I called less and less, but I always looked forward to seeing her at family events. Like all children, I thought she would always be around; after all, she had always been around, and anyway, death certainly didn’t apply to MY family. Later, I reasoned…there is always later. Of course, my “later” ran out. Death stole her mind before he took her body; she had a stroke in 1998 and died in May 2001, a couple of months shy of her 92nd birthday.
I think of my grandmother often; early summer mornings remind me of her. Early morning in the summer has a certain smell, a certain quality of light. In the early morning, the grass is wet with dew, the birds are chirping and there is an anticipation of a beautiful day ahead. Beautiful like my grandmother and the soft personality she developed after seeing so much history, both personal and textbook-worthy. Beautiful like a six-year-old girl racing down a grassy embankment and crashing through scratchy hedges, a red plastic bowl in her hand, eager to see if her grandma’s meager raspberry vines were bearing fruit.
Happy birthday, Grandma.