You may be surprised when I tell you that the person who I try to emulate as a grandma is someone I never met. She was my father’s mother and she died a year before I was born. But, she has had a tremendous impact on my life through the stories I’ve heard about her.
She was born in Prussia, but she was raised in Texas and Oklahoma.
She dated the son of an Indian Chief before she fell in love with and married a charming Irishman.
When her charming Irishman spent a large portion of his wages from the railroad on his “weakness for the bottle”, she didn’t feel sorry for herself, she just continued to love him (and he did adore her too) and she got a job to help support their family which eventually included two sons and two daughters.
When her younger son, Ruhl, married Rose, a young girl who hadn’t learned much about being a housewife and mother from her own un-domestic mother, she took her new daughter-in-law under her wing and loved her and taught her as if she was her own.
Ruhl and Rose were my parents. I know that Daddy adored his mother but it was Mama who most often told me wonderful, always loving, stories about Grandma.
When Betty Rose, Mama and Daddy’s first child (and grandma’s first grandchild) was born, Grandma asked Mama to bring her to the dry cleaning plant where she worked so that she could show her off to her co-workers. Mama told me the story many times about her taking Betty Rose to the plant where, even though it was early spring time, it was already incredibly hot around all the pressing machines, and Grandma and her co-workers, all hot and sweaty from their pressing work, stopped for a few minutes and came to the door so that Grandma could show her friends her adored first grandchild.
Grandma loved baseball. They lived in Kansas City, so she followed the Blues. Usually Grandma was all about her grandchildren and always had time for them, except when a baseball game was on the radio. They said that when a ballgame was on, no one talked at all in the front room where Grandma would be sitting in front of the big console radio listening to the game, leaning forward, so as not to miss a single word of the announcer calling the game.
When my four older siblings were children, she would sometimes take all four of them with her on the street car, across town to the ball park to see a game.
My siblings all told me numerous times about the greeting they frequently received from Grandma. She would grab you, wrap her arms tightly around you and pound you on the back, declaring that she was going to squeeze you so tight that you would break in two and she would have two of you to love!
When my siblings were little, she wanted to be there when they got up on Christmas morning so that she could watch them open their gifts from Santa. So for quite a few years, she would make Grandpa get up very, very early on Christmas morning so that they could be at Mama and Daddy’s house by 5 a.m., to be sure that they were there before the kids got up.
I was also told she had a great sense of humor and a contagious laugh.
One of Mama’s favorite funny stories about her:
Grandma helped Mama pick out wallpaper for her kitchen. And she told Mama that she would help her put it up. Apparently back then they sometimes put wallpaper on the ceilng too. So, Grandma (who was a rotund lady) was standing on the kitchen table putting a strip of wallpaper on the ceiling. But, all of a sudden one end came loose and the whole strip of wallpaper, heavy with thick paste, fell down over her. Mama said she and Grandma started laughing so hard that Grandma couldn’t do anything to get the paper off of herself or to get down from the table until they stopped. Mama said Grandma, standing on the table after the disaster with the paste-soaked wallpaper draped over her head, looked like a mound of wallpaper and paste shaking with laughter.
Grandma taught Mama many things and one of those was an example of how to be a good grandma. And Mama learned that lesson well. So, she was a very special grandma to her grandchildren too.
And, because of all the stories I heard of my much beloved Grandma, and because of the great example Mama was, I am now trying to live up to the high standard for “grandmothering” those two represented.
And, someday, when I meet Grandma for the first time in Heaven, I look forward to her grabbing me and squeezing me tightly, and telling me that she’s going to squeeze me in two, so that there will be two of me to love.