Sunday afternoon my grandma died. I am sad… and I am relieved.
Grandma was born June 4th, 1917 in Waverly, Minnesota. She was the oldest of four girls. When she was 16 she met the man who would become her husband of 65 years (ending when he died in 2000). Together they lived on a farm in Central Minnesota with my paternal great-grandfather until his death at age 91 (land and house purchased by his father in 1870) and had 14 children – all live births (and all still living) – 11 boys and three 3 girls – half born at home and half at the hospital. These children went on to produce 54 grandchildren for my grandma to love on.
My grandma was the old-fashioned kind of grandma. She always wore a dress (didn’t see her in pants until my grandpa died), and a full apron. Coffee was still made on the stove top in an old coffee pot. Dinner was served at noon on the dot and supper was served at exactly the same time every evening – and not one minute later. There was always a stack of bread on the table and a stick of butter. The last time I saw then both alive I met a few of my aunts at the farmhouse, and because it was Friday we had tomato soup and cheese sandwiches (no meat on Friday – ever!)
We lived just four miles from my grandparent’s house when I was growing up – but we could still legitimately sing “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” because we did those things to get there. When I would attempt to run away from home I would be heading to my grandma’s house (when I was six I got over a quarter of the way there!) When I was with my grandma I felt like I was the most special person in the world. She told me I was her favorite – but I’m guessing that she told all her grandchildren that.
Grandma baked. She was known for her pies – crust made from scratch with lard (she used to tell people that she had 14 children – all raised on lard and butter and they were all alive and well – why in the world would she ever want to use margarine!) I believe her crust recipe makes 50 crusts – evidently the dough freezes well. Every year in June, for my birthday, she would make sure she made a fresh strawberry pie just for me! I have one of her recipe cards for banana bread. I think it makes 50 loaves.
My grandma quilted. She did the standard quilts for her mission group, and for all the members of the family she made tied quilts. You can see a few of these quilts and find out how to tie quilts here.
Grandma taught me how to tie quilts on a quilt frame my grandfather had made for her (I have one he made for me, too!) – and we would spend time together quilting and talking. I was interested in genealogy and family stories, and she shared with me her childhood memories and stories of her family. Or we would listen to the Edison (the Victrola-type record player).
Grandma sometimes made the Christmas gifts for the grandchildren. When I was quite young she made teddy bears for the children around at that time (with so many, I think there is a 20 year difference between the oldest and youngest grandchild). This is mine (yes I still have it). I think my brother (who is just a year younger than I) bit the nose off the first year I had it.
When I was in college, she made dolls for some of the younger children. I asked her if she would make one for me, too… and she did 😉
No matter the crowd in the tiny farmhouse – especially during the holidays when the whole family would get together, you could count on two things. Grandma would have time to hug on a child, and there would be LOTS of food. Holiday meals were potluck – and grandma would cook several turkeys and make three large (and by large, I mean just barely able to fit into the oven) pans of stuffing. One thing is for sure – our family loved to eat
One of my aunts had kept me posted on her health, and I knew I would probably never see my grandmother alive again. Grandma didn’t know who I was last time I saw her, but she doesn’t know who her children were either. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for over ten years, and had been living in a nursing home for the last six or seven. Her death was a blessing. I was told that she was surrounded by 11 of her 14 children when she died. In fact, I got a call (message left on machine) several hours in advance of her death. I returned the call just 30 minutes after she had actually died. She was 91.
My grandmother was truly an amazing woman and I will always cherish the time I got to spend with her. And, when I wrap up in the quilts she made for me, I feel her loving hugs.