Reflections

Reflections: My Grandparents

From time to time, I’ll be recording thoughts and events from my childhood. These memories are prompted from the Reflections from a Mother’s Heart – Your Life Story in Your Own Words. I plan on filling this book out one of these days to pass onto my children. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the lives of our parents fascinating. It’s weird to think of my parents as children and it’s really fun to hear stories about their past, how they met, etc. If my children read about my past, perhaps they will understand me just a little better.

___________________________________

Describe your grandparent’s houses. Did you visit them often? Why or why not?

Describe my grandparents’ houses? Hhmm…they were very different, at least, they were to me.

I’ll start with my mom’s mom. I never knew my mom’s dad; he died when my mom was three years old. My grandmother never remarried, which I thought was really cool, and still do. She never found anyone who could replace my grandfather and I thought that was the epitome of true love. (In fact, she’s buried next to him now).

Grandma J. was a down to earth, countrywoman with simple tastes. She wasn’t interested in putting on airs and as long as her clothing was comfortable, she didn’t care what it looked like (to a certain point. Please don’t think that she was THAT simple).

Grandma J.’s breath always smelled like coffee. It was bittersweet with just a touch of cream. I don’t ever remember her smelling like anything else. In fact, it seemed like she was always holding a mug of coffee and taking noisy slurps. I wasn’t close to Grandma J., but I was comfortable with her. She never made me feel self-conscious and she was always herself, to hell with what anyone else thought. She was tough. She raised five kids on her own. She sewed their clothes (she was a seamstress for a number of years) and very thrifty. Mom grew up poor and though she knew it, it didn’t seem to bother her overly much.

My mom has one brother and four sisters, one sister is deceased. Mom is the fourth child. I think growing up in a large family prepared my mom for motherhood and indeed, that’s all she ever wanted out of life, to get married and have a family of her own. Other than missing not having a father around, mom really hasn’t talked much about her dad, probably due to the fact that she doesn’t remember a lot about him.

Growing up, we were over at Grandma J.’s a lot. Mom and her younger sister, and her two kids, my sister and brother all hung out a lot during the summer months. In fact, Mom and her sister planned something for us to do every single day (other than the weekends.) We went to the movies on certain days, went swimming on certain days, the park (on cooler days), shopping, worked on crafts, you name it and mom kept us busy. We didn’t have the video games like the kids have nowadays so it was harder to keep us kids entertained. We stayed home a lot but I don’t remember ever really being bored.

Back to Grandma J – her house was very simple. It had hard floors…and I’m not talking wood, but rather concrete blocks. At least, that’s what I remember, I’m sure they were linoleum or some such. Her house always smelled like musty linens and her TV was always turned up too loud. (It seemed to get louder as she got older).

Grandma J. lived by herself for a number of years until her sister was unable to handle living on her own and she moved in with Grandma. My great aunt was a VERY cool lady; she used to be a teacher; so she was very smart and sharp with witty comebacks (something she probably picked up through her years dealing with kids). I remember laughing a lot over at Grandma J’s. Grandma J was always saying something funny and the way her upper lip curled around her teeth when she smiled or laughed was comforting in an odd way.

Grandma J always had fabric and knickknacks lying around. Though she wasn’t into crafts like my mom and aunt, she did a fair amount of sewing and was the one who taught my mom how to sew.

Her house was a pea green and as the years went by it faded to a pale mint green. She had a big backyard that bordered the parking lot of the Baptist Bible School. I remember walking through the school’s campus and admiring all the “cool” college kids and wondering what it would be like to live in a dorm. Thinking back on it now, I think walking through that campus helped plant the seed of wanting to go to college someday.

Grandma J. hung her sheets out to dry on a clothesline. I remember purposefully walking into the sheets so I could get a good whiff of fresh air, hot sun, and laundry detergent.

There was always something to eat at Grandma J.’s. I remember muffins and hard candy the most. In fact, Grandma J. had a weakness for those butterscotch hard candies. I remember popping those yellow circles in my mouth and happily sucking away for hours.

Grandma J’s house had three bedrooms, one bath, a living area and a kitchen. That was it. Though small, it never felt cramped. Grandma J had an old rickety coffee table on stick-thin legs that wobbled whenever we played on it.

We had quite a few yard sales over there as well. Grandma J. lived on a busy street so there was always plenty of traffic driving by which made our yard sales pretty popular.

An old man lived next door to Grandma J and I remember thinking their relationship was odd. He was a black man and though they became friends, it was a reluctant friendship. I don’t think Grandma was prejudiced, but she did come from a different era and they thought differently about African Americans. The old man eventually died and Grandma J. took it hard. That’s how I knew they had ended up being friends. I think, from that point on, Grandma J. went downhill a bit. She broke her hip a few years later and she died from a blood clot in the hospital. It was the worse kind of death, one that took us all completely by surprise and I have never felt more sorry for my mom in my life. She was crushed as she was close to her. It scared me because that meant my mom was the next in line to go and even thinking about her dying now makes my heart clench with fear.

Grandma and Grandpa H. (GGH) are my dad’s folks and they are still alive and kicking. Though getting up there in age (both over 80’s and fast approaching 90’s), they are both very much alert and active, though they are slowing down. I’m very proud of them for not ending up in a nursing home, they both still live together and by themselves. I can only hope I’m in that good of shape when I get to be their age.

Dad is the oldest with one younger brother and two younger sisters. Grandpa worked in construction for years and years and as a result, he’s very good with his hands. In fact, considering we live in tornado country, he built a basement under their three bedrooms, two and half bath house by planting dynamite and blasting through the rock. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else doing that but considering Grandpa did that for a living and knew what he was doing, he managed to dig a pretty good-sized basement without blowing up the house. I can’t imagine what it must have been like living on top of dynamite like that, literally!

Grandma has always been a stay-at-home mother. In fact, she never got her driver’s license and if she needs to go anywhere today, either Grandpa or one of her daughters takes her. Grandma is emotionally aloof and Grandpa is a cutup. He’s always teasing people and giving them a hard time while Grandma stands on the outskirts and rolls her eyes. Grandpa CONSTANTLY teases my Grandma and though she scowls and says, “Oooh..stop it!” I think she secretly enjoys being the center of attention.

GGH has a strange, but cute relationship. Grandpa is obviously head over heels in love with Grandma and though I think Grandma loves Grandpa, I don’t think she loves him as much as Grandpa loves her. Though my Grandpa is feisty and full of life, I think if he loses my Grandma his life light will flicker and eventually go out. They are quite the pair.

We went over to GGH a lot for “visits” and holidays. In fact, we all still try and get together over at GGH’s on Christmas Eve, a tradition, every year.

We went over there every Christmas Eve and had a party in the basement that Grandpa built. We received our gifts from GGH and spent the rest of the evening playing with them. It was always a lot of fun and that’s a memory I’ll always cherish. When I graduated from high school, moved out, and eventually got married myself, I still wanted to gather over at GGH for Christmas Eve, it just didn’t feel right NOT going.

I’m not close to my grandparents and I couldn’t tell you why. Grandpa always got on my nerves and I still don’t know why. His teasing got old, I guess. I think I have a lot of my Grandma H. in me. I tend to be a cold fish, emotionally, and I don’t have patience for silly people, though I can’t imagine my life without those very people in it. It’s an emotional tug-o-war.

GGH’s house was pink, though I don’t think it’s really supposed to be pink. I think it was red at one time but has faded over the years. GGH had more money than my Grandma J. and their house had newer furniture and more expensive knick-knacks. Grandma H still has a houseful of “prettys” which consists mainly of figurines and angels, (she collects them).

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’m still VERY uncomfortable going over there (which now consists of once a year and that’s Christmas Eve). I honestly could not tell you why. I feel like a stranger to my aunts, uncles, and cousins and it’s entirely my fault. I’ve been so self-absorbed over the years that I never took the time to get to know any of them. That makes me sound like such a cold fish, I realize that, but I can’t lie. I don’t know if it’s because I never felt I had anything in common with any of them, or what. But I can’t put a finger on why I’ve been so …distant over the years. I’m not proud of the way I’ve interacted with my family and I know I’ll regret it one day. It’ll be one of those things that I wish I could have changed if asked but know, deep in my heart, that I would probably act the exact same way if given that chance.

I’m not proud of my emotional coldness, there’s no excuse for it. All I know is that there is something, some mental block, that I can not get around and I hope I didn’t pass on to my own children. I’m not proud of being a recluse, though I suppose it has advantages. Being distant from my family is not one of them.