All of my fondest childhood memories come from the summers I spent with my paternal grandmother between the ages of ten through fourteen. Grandma was a loving, giving woman. She enjoyed simple, yet hard-working things – gardening, milking cows, raising chickens, canning and cooking. Leisure for her was snapping beans on the back porch or listening to her favorite am radio shows in the evenings after cleaning up the kitchen. Anyone who showed up at grandma’s house would be welcomed with a hug and a cooked meal. I don’t think there was ever a moment that a kettle of something wasn’t simmering on the stove.
Grandma also made me feel important. She made my favorite dishes, saved me jars of chunky applesauce, and whipped up batches of pistachio pudding for me every single year that I stayed with her. There were no televisions in her house, but she knew I loved to read and I was always welcomed to browse my aunts’ bookshelves for something to read (two aunts lived with her). Early mornings, I’d help her with the chickens and cows. By mid-morning, we’d been in the garden weeding or picking vegetables. When it was too hot to be outside, we’d go inside, drink lemonade, listen to music on the radio and I’d read while grandma prepared food. She didn’t like anyone fussing around her stove. Evenings were spent snapping beans or peeling and coring apples. At night, we’d gather in the living room to listen to her radio shows and of course, I’d always have a book in tow.
My memory isn’t what it used to be and it fads more and more each day, so I don’t have any specific memories. Just the lingerings of my time with grandma and what we routinely did each day, because with grandma, each day was a routine. She never swayed from her daily chores, even when she was tired or ill. That’s just the kind of woman she was. Always going about the business of doing things. She taught me that and to this day, I function better when I have routines and something to always be doing.
I didn’t get to spend the last summer of her life with her. In 1981, she moved from her farm back to the small town where she raised some of her kids. That summer, her kids refused to allow her to plant a garden because they said she was too old. I did visit a few times that summer and autumn, but I saw how “wilted” she’d become. Gardening was her life’s blood and she was cut off from it. By the following April, grandma passed away in her sleep. I still cherish the values she instilled in me and I’ve missed her every day since.