Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Maternal Grandmother

Yesterday was her birthday. I believe we would have required 118 candles if we had been buying candles.

She died more than 20 years ago but July 5th is still her birthday. I don't think it's correct to say "would have been her birthday." Your birthday doesn't change at death just like any other fact about you. It is just that you don't celebrate it anymore - here at least.

I think one of my older cousins had already named her when I came along. We called her "mah maw" in my best-but-insufficient way of trying to write it the way we said it. I never did know how to write it.

Dad and Mom cared for her in their home for a long while. I don't remember when she came to live there. I think she lived there at least 5 years though.

She never learned to drive. I don't know why.

She and her husband did a lot of things. They were very much depression era folks. The poverty of that time in general was worse for them because they were in the ministry. My grandfather was a carpenter before he was a minister. His particular calling was to go to a town and physically build a church building, pastor for a while, and move on to the next town.

My grandmother was extremely resourceful and must have been very smart I think. Because she managed to keep a loving home during all those moves and under the most difficult of circumstances. I recall my mother talking about how she was able to make a scrumptious meal out of just about nothing.

My mother also liked to remember her candy making ability. I remember eating candy from my grandmother's stove. My favorite was called "Aunt Bill's" and I have no idea who Aunt Bill was. But that was some good candy. It was a kind of brown color and was a little crumbly - not gooey like fudge and not very cake like either. But she made all sorts of candy. Mom said that she would make candy and sell it for cash during the harder times.

My brother researched her family line. As I recall her ancestors had moved from somewhere in the deep south to Texas before the Civil War. Apparently a lot of people did.

She was also a caregiver. Her husband had a stroke when he was pretty young. He died when I was 12 so it is hard for me to remember how long she took care of him but it was several years. They had a farm when he had the stroke and they had to sell that and move to the city.

Mom would drive into the City once each week and pickup her younger sister and they would then go to their mother's. The sister stayed with my grandfather while mom took my grandmother shopping for groceries. Neither the sister nor my grandmother could drive.

After my grandfather died my grandmother moved into a small quad-plex apartment. She loved African Violets and had many of them. They apparently loved her because they grew like crazy under her care. She lived alone a long while.

Then she started forgetting to eat and forgetting to take medicine and leaving the burners on and wearing too many clothes or sometimes not enough. So mom moved her down to the farm with them.

She loved to fish. I don't think I've ever known anyone who loved to fish as much as she did. Her favorite place was on the farm she and her husband owned over in Tuttle. It had a pretty, little creek on it and they also built a pond which they stocked. But the creek was her favorite place. She like to use a long cane pole. I mean long, too, as in 12' or longer. They were so long, those poles, that they had to be stored overhead in a garage or shed. Heck, maybe they were 16' even because they were nearly as long as a car. They were too long for me to handle very well. She had this little stool deal that she could sit on and she'd stick that pole out over the creek and let down the line with the baited hook. She always caught fish, too, and knew what to call them.

When she lived at the farm with mom and dad she would try to fish in the pond that was down below the house.

I've sold that area to Chick-Fil-A by the way. We haven't closed yet but will soon. In a year it will be built and operating and there will be thousands of cars per day going in an out of there. People really like Chick-Fil-A though and are really happy that we are getting one in our area. I've only eaten once at a Chick-Fil-A and I thought it was pretty good.

Anyway that's the spot where the pond was and my grandmother would go down and sit by the pond and fish. Only there really weren't any fish in the pond and dad kind of let it dry up several times. He said if he had it to do over he would have rigged up a well to have kept water in the pond and kept fish in it too just so my grandmother would have been able to catch something.

Before the pond there was a kind of depression there in what we called the meadow. Inside the depression had been this huge Cottonwood tree that had lived there much of my life. But between lightening and age it had become mostly dead and dad cut it down one year and then built the pond later. Mom used to take me and my brother down below that old tree for a picnic. She'd throw a blanket out and we would eat hot dogs with relish and mustard. I still remember that all these years later.

Another thing my grandmother did after the dementia set in was to write her name in everything. I've wondered about this. Dad did something similar but not to the same extent. Anyway you can't pick up a book at the house without finding "Myrtle" scribbled on the inside somewhere. Frequently she wrote "Myrtle's book" in fact. I wonder now if it was an attempt to hold on to her identity a little longer.

She was always wanting to go home. She was extreme about it. She was one of those wanderers you read about. Mom told me often that she would be awakened in the middle of the night to find her mother fully dressed and all her bags packed and ready to go home.

Near the end she would take off all her clothes and try to go home. Once dad caught her out in the road in front of the house and she was totally naked except for shoes. He got her back inside and put this old, red, Owens-Corning windbreaker on her until mom returned home to help him.

At the very end it became too difficult for dad and mom to care for my grandmother and they put her in a nursing home. She escaped from a couple of homes though and then they would have to move her. She would be so frail and bed ridden and you would think to yourself that she couldn't possibly walk let alone run off. But then suddenly she would gain strength from some unknown source and out she'd go. Once she climbed a pretty good gate as I recall.

Dad always regretted he didn't keep her at home so she could have died there with him and mom around her. He worried a lot about that. It was one of his big regrets.

Another thing I remember vividly about my grandmother is going to her house over in Tuttle. On the way we had to go over this really narrow bridge that had the steel sides and arcs. It was really narrow and scary when we met another car. It's still there but has been closed since I was in High school. We'd drive through the town of Tuttle. There was an old fashioned drugstore there that had the best chocolate ice cream. We'd cross this railroad at the end of town where the paved road would end. Then we drove a little farther down this sandy road and their place was on the right. It had a long driveway with Poplar trees framing both sides. The house was a tall one story with a dormer window (I think) on front and it had asbestos siding. They mowed their lawn with an electric mower. I thought that was funny. I think in the summer it was hot and I'm uncertain if they had air conditioning or not. I think maybe not but that's kind of in the time when we didn't really have air conditioning except in stores.

I also remember eating Thanksgiving dinner at their house in Tuttle. What I mainly remember though is this heater they had. The way I recall it, it was kind of tall and shaped like a cylinder of sorts and burned wood I think. And it put out heat like crazy. Everyone liked to gather around that heater in that room. My Uncle Clarence would tell stories about Texas or Minnesota (or was it Michigan - can't remember). My Uncle Ed would tell stories about Georgia. My oh my he loved Georgia. I've known other people from Georgia and they all loved that state. My uncles were good story tellers. The women would be in the kitchen and at the table fixing food and stuff and some of us kids would be running here and there. The women got louder and louder and louder. I remember that still and sometimes it would be so loud dad would holler out. I think he was more sensitive about the loudness. I've seen that since though where a big group of people just gets louder and louder.

It's better to remember the Thanksgivings on her farm I think.


Lori1955 said...

I am always amazed at how vivid your memories are. It seems like you come from a long line of compassionate caregivers. Like your uncles, you are a good story teller too. I can almost see things when you write about them. Thanks for sharing this and Happy Birthday mah maw.

~Betsy said...

Gosh your stories are awesome, Terry! You had such a wonderful place to grow up and this reads like something out of The Saturday Evening Post! Thanks for sharing!

Cinnamin said...

Hi Terry!

I feel like we're all sitting in a cozy room, on comfy pillows, kicking back, listening to you tell us those wonderful memories.

Thanks! I really enjoy stopping by and sitting on the porch with you!

rilera said...

You are becoming a realestate magnate! I like ChickFil A too.

¸.•*´)ღ¸.•*´Chris said...

You so remind me of my dad. He could tell you anything about our town. What a historian!

Dad never forgot his days during the depression and I think some of it has even stuck to me, though I never had to live like that. His family was thought of as rich during those days as they had chicken to eat on Sundays. Dad helped me to appreciate what I have and I am so grateful to him for that.

I'm glad you are blogging this stuff. I wish I could have had a tape recorder going while Dad would tell his stories. Some of them I remember, some of them, not so much. Such precious memories for your loved ones and friends to be able to enjoy. Thanks Terry!

I feel like we are all sitting on your porch listening to stories as well. Please pass the lemonade.