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My Grandma

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My grandma was a very special person in my life. Though she died over thirty years ago, I can never imagine my life without her. While growing up she was my savior, my hero, my life line. I was her second favorite grandchild out of four. My older cousin, John, was her most prized, but he was my hero as well, so I accepted my rank in the family willingly. My grandpa was a very special man, quiet, gruff in a kind way. He always wore overalls and an engineer’s cap. My grandma always wore a “house dress”, hose and an apron. He was an engineer for the Union Pacific Rail Road. Their marriage was my view of what true marriage was, not the transient, careless traps my mother fell into. By the time I was seven, she was on her third marriage, and oh my, I disliked this one! I spent as much time as I could at my grandparent’s home. Even before he came into the picture, I lived with my grandmother for the first year of my life. For some never stated reason, my mother continued to live in New York City after I was born. My grandparents took me to their home in Omaha when I was three weeks old. I do not remember any photos my first year with my mother, so I really don’t know when she re-entered my life. My little sister entered the picture when I was eighteen months old; her dad was a different husband. I remember living mostly with my Mother and sister before the age of six, but spent a lot of time with my beloved grandparents. Their house, when I was a child, seemed like a giant, warm, beautiful home, I remember the smell in spring with the windows open, like it was yesterday. As an adult, I saw their home was really a small, middle class home with a small fenced yard. It has now been sold, I have not returned to see it since the sale. My cousin, John’s younger brother lived there for several years after my Grandmothers death, and he changed its appearance, and it was never Grandmas house after he lived there. I lived with my Grandmother again when I started school. The Catholic grade school by my Mother’s home was doing some remodeling and the kindergarten was closed for a year. Every day, my grandmother would walk with me the five blocks to school. I still have the tiny lunch box my Grandpa put a handle on, a tiny tin box with the Three Bears on the front. She would be in front of the white little school house after class, and we would walk home. Her sister, the wicked Aunt Therese lived half way between school and Grandmas house. Sometimes we would stop so the two sisters could visit for a bit, Aunt Therese was nothing like her sister; she had a quick, sharp voice and was an unkind soul. I was always happy when we passed her house without stopping.

My grandpa would always bring my grandma and me a cup of coffee in bed every morning when we woke. Mine was more milk and sugar than coffee, but he showed his kindness through this act and a thousand others. There was never a cross word between my grandparents, never a raised voiced. How they managed that, I will never know. Having been married myself for over forty-six years; I know how difficult life can be.

I spent every weekend, every summer, and every Christmas vacation with my Grandparents. When my step-father jumped from job to job, state to state, my grandparents would always be my safe haven to escape to as often as I could. In the fourth grade we were living for a short time in the hospital for almost a month. The doctor (now this was in the 1950’s era of medicine) said he thought my missing my grandparents hindered my recovery.

My step-father and I never got along. More than once I begged my mother to leave him. But she wouldn’t, I will never understand why she stayed. My memory of him is a lot of drinking, constant moving, abuse and unkindness. He never should have tried to be a father figure, or a husband.

On Halloween my grandparents would hand out black licorice pipes to the trick or treaters … They are still my favorite candy, but they are getting very hard to find!   On the 4th of July we would always go to a big fire-works show in the park after and all day picnic with the whole family, then John and I could set off firecrackers at home. I got “snakes”, John got firecrackers, we used Grandpa’s cigar to set them off. Oh the memories, the smiles these thoughts bring to my soul!

My grandpa died when my oldest child was nine months old. We lived in Kansas City, I had met my husband when I was 15, and we got married after I graduated from high school. My Aunt moved in with my grandparents after she became a widow. They would come to visit us often, and we would venture to see them also. I remained close to my grandmother and aunt. My grandma died shortly after being diagnosed with Leukemia. I had gone to Omaha to take her to the doctor. She had refused to go, and my aunt knew she was sick. She was admitted to the hospital that day, her hemoglobin was four! After tests, starting treatment, she was in and out of the hospital for a month. I would spend a few days with her, go home and check on my husband and kids, then go back to be with her. While we were waiting to have her admitted the first time to the hospital, she told me she did not want to know if she was “really sick”. She said she was not afraid to die, but she had no need to know it. The doctor agreed she would not know her situation. A nurse and I argued about it, but in the end grandma thought she had anemia and after some transfusions and medication she would soon feel better. On the morning of her death, she was restless and seems uncomfortable. The nurse gave her a medication, and it seemed to make her rest easier. Just before she died, she said “Josephine!”… she always called my Grandpa Josephine! I think he was with her then. While I don’t necessarily believe in Heaven and all that, it gives me great comfort and peace to think of them together again. The most wonderful, loving grandparents anyone could ask for. She was the strength of our family, the glue that kept us together, and she did a fantastic job. I feel sometime my ability to keep my family secure and close is not up to her standard. I am trying Grandma. I hope I have not disappointed you. I love you dearly!

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