My sister, Tina, wrote this to remember our grandmother, who passed away earlier this week. It eulogizes her more beautifully than I ever could:
When I remember you, Grandma, the first thing that comes to mind is you in your kitchen. I can see you rushing around, lighting the stove to put on your homemade applesauce in your old enamel pan. Or, you’re poaching Grandpa’s eggs for breakfast, while the toaster does its job on the kitchen table. Or perhaps you’re pulling a Chef Boyardee pizza out of the oven, the ones you always covered with hotdog pieces and hamburger for us grandkids. Or, if we’re really lucky, you’ve just pulled out a rhubbarb custard pie or sugar cookies. Those recipes will live on in our family for generations to come. But your pickled beet recipe didn’t make the cut. Aunt Alice’s is so much easier and none of us can taste the difference. But we didn’t have the heart to tell you.
I can see your red cart right behind you. The one you kept all the newspapers on. Of course, you’re wearing one of your 50s aprons and your hairnet. I can’t see a hairnet without thinking of you or the lunch lady at the cafeteria. You did work as a dietician at Byran, you know.
I see you sitting down for a moment to read the Clipper or the Evening Star and have a sip of Coke. Of course, you don’t sit down for very long. There are dishes to be done, so you stack them up and carry them to the laundry room sink. Heaven forbid that you should wash them in the kitchen sink! I think I can count on one hand the number of times you let me wash them there. And that was only because I badgered you so.
We knew that we could always count on you for a great snack. Your kitchen frig also had a horn of colby in it from the Countyline Cheese Factory. You had the Nabisco saltines to go with the cheese in the tin in the kitchen cupboard by the toaster. The frig in the back room was always full of pop for us, right beside your Coke classics. Then there was the front room candy stash. You kept more than sufficiently supplied with Snickers midgits and Brach’s candy mix.
Remember when you used to babysit us? We’d work with you in the garden or collect eggs together. Peacock feathers too. We’d sort them all with you in the backroom, after a cold drink from the tin cup on the back porch. And, when I was really little, you’d put me down for a nap in the bathtub in the pink bathroom. That tub was only for naps, as far as I could tell. A child of the Great Depression, you were. So, we all took our showers in the basement, in the same room with your great stores of canned veggies, juice, and jams. I still use your pressure canner here in Guinea. It will undoubtedly out last us both.
I also still have the Mother of Pearl broche that you brought me back from Israel. Who would have guessed you to be a world traveler? But you brought home souvenir plates from Paris and a camel picture to prove it. You ate at the Varsity in Atlanta and rode on the train in the Florida Everglades. Cancun with Jerry and Alice. The Black Hills in South Dakota. It’s too bad that I never asked you about your visit to the Great Wall in China before you and Grandpa married. Not bad at all for a country girl from DeKalb County, Indiana.
You always used to scare Aunts Florene and Bernice when you’d “Shoot the Moon” in Eucre. Your style of dealing cards was scary too, almost as much as your driving when I was in high school. You liked to have fun. It makes me smile to remember your laugh. My favorite picture of you is the one with you and Grandpa laughing at Christmas. You still had on your apron from cooking the ham or baking the pies.
Remember all those hot summer nights, cranking homemade ice cream together on the back porch? My favorites were the peach and strawberry. Or, those times of eating corn-on-the cob and watermelon for supper. We wouldn’t go in until it was dark and the stars came out. You taught me to take joy in the simple things of life, like a good meal and a breeze blowing on my face. That lesson has served me well.
You loved animals, just like Grandpa did. I remember you feeding the calves and your old dog Pete. I remember you putting up your birdhouse every summer for the starlings, then hanging up tin pie pans in the cherry tree to scare the birds away. You always had a watchdog and usually half a dozen cats in the barn to eat the meal scraps.
I remember you getting all dressed up to go out. You might be going out to eat at the Factory with Grandpa. (I’ll never understand why you chose cottage cheese for your salad.) Or, maybe it was to church. Whatever the occasion, the process was usually the same: It started with your girdle and panty hoses. Why you thought you needed the girdle, none of us will ever understand. Then your outfit: it was usually a skirt, light colored blouse, and a jacket. My personal favorite was the rose one you wore for the 4 generation picture when Abby was a baby. Then you’d dig out one of your pocket books from the coat closet by the back door. Then it was to the back room to pick out your hair, if it had been too many days since you had it fixed at Donnas. Then lipstick, usually from an Avon trial tub. With no more than that, you always ended up looking great! There’s no more need for you to dress up now. You’re radiant in the glory of God’s presence.
Grandma, remember that I loved you. We all did. I’ll always remember Grandpa taking his wedding ring from the tray on top of the frig and popping in on before he went out with you. You were his wife. And the tombstone he picked out to share with you shows that he was sweet on you to the end.
You were Grandpa’s wife, Dad’s mother, and my Grandmother. And the next time that I get to talk with you, I won’t have to dial 357-3223. Nor will our reminiscing be encumbered by your memory loss and the many miles that physically separated us since I left home. We’ll be in heaven together. I’ll be the one with the can of Diet Coke from Guinea, and you’ll be sipping on your Coke classic.