I have come to realize that I have been unusually blessed with memories and real relationships with all four of my great-grandmas and special relationships with my grandparents. My great-grandmas lived to be 92, 95, 98, and 101 1/2. I spent nights with one, played lots of Yahtzee with another, was amazed how one could take her teeth out, and new definitely NOT to call the other Granny. From each one and from each grandma and grandpa I have learned life lessons, things I know they had no clue they were leaving a mark on. As my husband says goodbye to his last remaining grandparent today I reflect on these generations and their lessons for me.
My Great-Grandma Bellows never once complained. In fact, she never hesitated to laugh at herself. Once, at a restaurant, several of us were using the ladies’ room when she did something silly. I have no memory of what it was only all of us laughing so hard and her saying, “And I only allow myself one silly mistake a day!” Her first husband, Dan, died unexpectedly at a young age leaving her with three young children of which my grandpa was the oldest. She moved back to her family’s farm to raise them and help her father. She remarried later to Lester. Their dreams were changed forever when he was blinded in a farming accident. After that Grandma never moved her furniture so that he would always be able to get around. When visiting her Grandma would offer lunch saying, “I don’t have much but you are welcome to join me” and then proceeded to fill the table with tons of food. She told me once that her parents were not very affectionate but she knew they loved her. She felt she was like that too. Well I knew Grandma loved me. From catching lightning bugs in her front yard and putting them in a jar as a nightlight to her teaching me how to crochet to her making homemade hot chocolate to singing Go Tell Aunt Rhodie to me while curled up in her lap to being interested in my life, all that spoke love to me. Loving in all ways is what Grandma Bellows taught me.
Great-Grandma Myers scared me. She was so tiny, so quiet. I was only 8 or younger when she passed but I do remember her laughing with me once. Grandma was staying with her daughter, my Grandma Grosse, when I peeked in the bathroom as she was getting ready for bed. There on the counter were these teeth in a glass of what looked like water. I was stunned! I asked if those were her teeth and if I could look in her mouth. She kindly bent down and let me pull her mouth open to see the empty space. I never knew people could take their teeth out. Humility and the virtue of being soft spoken is what Grandma Myers taught me.
Now Great-Grandma Bales, that woman had fire! She was not soft spoken. Ha, ha! She made it known to all grandkids that she was NOT to be called Granny. I do not believe any of us tried, to her face that is. Grandma Bales taught me that just because you are old does not mean you cannot have personality.
My early math skills I owe to Great-Grandma Giggy. Why? She loved playing Yahtzee and so did I. Grandma spent half the year in Fort Meyers, FL and the other half living with her only son, my grandpa, in Hagerstown, IN. I would visit for a week each summer and she would be there. Grandma was always up for playing Yahtzee, except if her soap opera was on. But once the show was over game on! No matter how young you were when counting your score you couldn’t count the dots on the dice. No, ma’am. She would have me do the math in my head which was hard for 5-6 year old. We visited Grandma once in Florida the summer before I started kindergarten. Our family went on our one and only trip to Walt Disney World. On the way back we picked Grandma up to bring her back to Indiana. I love bacon, always have. One morning Grandma made up a HUGE amount of bacon and I dove in. My mom said, “Grandma, you didn’t need to make all that. She doesn’t need all that bacon.” Grandma replied, “It is just going to go bad if I don’t make it.” That is love right there! Later, when Grandma was in the nursing home, we went to visit her. I brought Yahtzee with me even though I was not sure she would be able to play. Well Grandma was not eating whatever was on her food tray. She saw Yahtzee and wanted to play. I gently told her we could not play until she ate. Grandma ate her food and we played our final game of Yahtzee. At her funeral I remember stroking her hand and wondering if Jesus would play Yahtzee with her. Grandma Giggy taught me to love the smallest child.
I could go on and share about all of my grandmas and grandpas but the rest is for another day. In the sadness of losing loved ones, such as Jay’s Grandma Vesta Anderson, it is important to remember all their lives teach us, spoken and unspoken. In fact that is what stands out to me from my great-grandparents and grandparents. Most of what I learned was through their actions, lives that led by example. My children have known five great-grandparents and all of their grandparents. Hopefully they will have similar memories.