Last Friday was my grandma’s 95th birthday. We met her and my dad at our local Hometown Buffet for a birthday lunch, visit and let her know that she’s special.
Grandma has told me several times that she’s figuring out how to live as a person in her 90’s as she really doesn’t have anyone else’s experience to draw from. She and her younger sister (who will be 90 this year) are the two remaining siblings out of 7. Their other siblings, nor their parents ever made it this far. So she’s carving out the template for the rest of us.
Grandma Theda has been my closest grandparent (my granddad, her husband, was right there with her). She and my granddad loved their grandchildren, and we knew it. They played with us, listened to us, and were there on short notice when we needed them (I probably benefitted more than my sister and cousins because I came along several years before my sister and cousins did). They literally would travel to the other side of the world to see their grandchildren (3 of them lived in Switzerland, and at various times, Paris and Canada).
When I was 4, my parents were separated for a while and I spent a few weeks living with my grandparents. My granddad built me a swing from the rafters of the back patio with a rope and a plank of wood. Grandma would get out the games and toys that her kids used to play with, and she would actually play with me. Every night, she would tuck me in to sleep in my aunts canopy bed with the pink ruffles, and read to me poems from Mother Goose and other stories, in her diluted Texas dialect. Those toys and games have been passed down to my kids now. The canopy bed is now my daughter’s.
Spending the night at my grandma’s also meant the possibility of pancakes in the morning, upon request. She made the best pancakes! I found out later that a big secret to successful pancakes, is having a griddle! Grandma’s cooking was wonderful! She was from Texas and had been a farmer’s wife for many years, and she could really cook a wonderful meal! Family meals were usually followed by her delicious chocolate cake (think of a chocolate mousse with bits of angel food cake mixed with and topped with chopped walnuts). Her kitchen always smelled good. If my kitchen smells that good when I cook, then I know I’m doing something right!
She’s the only one who calls me “Elizabeth Ann” in a loving way. Usually, when I’ve heard my full name, it’s for business purposes or my mother was exasperated or angry with me. Everyone else uses my nickname.
She was also a very thoughtful Mother-in-law to my mother. She would help my mom during canning season. If my mom needed a babysitter, she was the grandparent that could be trusted to care for me. She and my granddad helped her after my parents divorced, even giving her a washing machine and dryer when we didn’t have one. They even came to my mom’s second wedding. When my mom was in her final days in the hospital, she and my granddad came to visit, and she even offered to take care of my mom. After my mom passed, Grandma and I already had a close enough relationship that she sort of stepped into that role as a mother (which was what I needed because I was getting ready to have a baby and it’s nice to have a mom when you’re new at it yourself).
My kids call her “Grandma” even though they know that she’s their great-grandma. She is a person that we have no problem finding a card for on Birthdays or Mother’s Day. The problem is picking just one! Those “mushy” cards describe her. She is a treasure who we are blessed to have in our family and in our lives.
Happy Birthday Grandma Theda!