I have mentioned my Grandma K many times on a variety of posts, and when I speak to my friends. That’s because she was someone pretty special, and had a huge and defining influence on who I became as a woman. As I sit here looking at her picture I feel the heat of tears filling my eyes, and the tightness in my chest from holding them back. How do I bring to each of you the essence of who she was, and give you a taste of what it was like to be loved by her?
Grandma was the epitome of love. She made everyone around her want to be a better person just by being with her. I remember as a kid we would load up in the car and head down to visit. As a grown-up I know that 2-1/2 hours isn’t that long of a drive, but as a kid it took FOREVER! My brother and I knew which exit we needed to take, so we would watch for it, our excitement building as we got closer. The instant we saw that exit sign we would start getting our shoes back on and press our faces to the windows to watch for the first glimpse of the house. The crunch of the gravel under the wheels was music to our ears as we drove up the alley behind the house, the amazing flowers and colors of the garden peeking over the top of the white picket fence. We were there! And there she was! As we pulled into the yard there was Grandma, standing on the back porch, drying her hands on her ever present apron, her face wreathed in one of the sweetest smiles anyone has ever seen. You could SEE the shine of happiness and love flowing out of her eyes as we tumbled out of the car, racing for her so we could get the hugs we’d been waiting for all day long. When her arms wrapped around us, it was nearly electrifying, how warm and how accepting it was. In her embrace we were home, our hearts were in a place where we were safe – didn’t matter what we said, or how we felt, it was safe with Grandma. As if the magic of her love wove a spell around us, my brother and I would automatically put away the kid squabbles and behave. When we were with Grandma we didn’t want her to have a disappointed look on her face, that sadness that came over her when we said something nasty to each other – like siblings will do. She would quietly say, “Don’t be cross with each other.” And we would put it away. Of course, all bets were off the moment we got BACK into the car. Let’s be real here!
When we walked into the house, into the small kitchen you see in the picture, the aromas of all the food she was preparing would wash over us. We knew that we would have ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted carrots, green beans, salad and pie. Always. That was the welcome home meal and it wouldn’t have been a visit without it. A filling meal was the physical manifestation of love and hospitality. I can look back and with a reality check acknowledge that Grandma used WAY too much salt, didn’t matter though. We would just drink more water to make up for it because she would have been horrified to know that we felt it was salty. She prepared her food the way she knew how and every bite was delicious because her two precious hands touched it. Life, conversation, laughter, quiet musings, shared morning cocoa and toast – these things all happened at that kitchen table, sitting on the low counter top, or on chairs dragged in from the dining room. The noise level of my family when they got all together, cousins, aunts and uncles – it was nearly deafening. Somehow we could always keep up on what was going on, no matter which room of the house they were in. We could be in the kitchen and respond to a conversation going on in the living room, and vice versa – don’t ask me how, I think it’s genetic.
My very favorite time of the visit though, would have to be morning. My cot was always set up in the dining room between the living room and the kitchen. My parents were on the fold out couch, my brother on another cot next to them. I’d sleep next to the flickering propane fireplace, warm and cozy, but a piece of me was awake and listening for Grandma or Grandpa to sneak on by into the kitchen. That house was very old, and very cold, so they would get up early and turn on the stove in the kitchen to warm it up, and get coffee and cocoa started. Well, Grandma would get the cocoa started. Grandpa was all about the coffee percolating in his old pot. I’d give Grandma a few minutes to freshen up for the morning, then I’d sneak into the kitchen, dragging a quilt with me. After giving me a good morning hug and kiss, she’d wrap me in the quilt and sit me on a chair at the table and together we would sip homemade, from scratch, hot cocoa, dipping golden, crisp pieces of toast into it, and we would whisper together, stifling giggles that just welled up and over, so we wouldn’t wake up the rest of the house. This time was precious and special. It was only for the two of us, and when I heard the rest of the family stirring I would get frustrated that the time was so short and coming to an end. The advice, wisdom, encouragement and acceptance gleaned at that table was special, it was life altering, and shaped me into who I am today. I have not forgotten a single moment of our time together, over the years the quilt didn’t wrap around quite as much, I could touch the floor at some point, I could get my own cocoa and serve Grandma . . . but the love was the same, or bigger, each and every visit.
Grandma, I wish I could talk to you right now. I know you are in heaven with Grandpa, and your Mama, and all of your loved ones who went on ahead. I know that you celebrate your birthday today with Jesus, and that the angels are celebrating the life you lived here, and your presence in heaven. It is my hope that you knew how big of an impact you had on so many lives, and that your words of wisdom and love live on. I can only hope that I will be fraction of the Grandma to my Grandchildren that you were to me. I love you Grandma. Happy Birthday.