(See HERE for previous posts in this series...)
After Aunt Martha's death in 1955 it was just my father and my grandparents. My dad finished high school and then decided to enlist in the army in 1960. He was stationed in Germany for 3 years and after he got out he moved to Chicago, where he met and married my mother in 1964. I was born a few years later and my brother a few years after that. We lived in Chicago until the mid-70's, when we moved to Robinson and lived there for four years before finally moving to north central Texas.
For my grandparents life went on at the old home place. The home place had originally been a three-room house with an outhouse but grandma and grandpa had slowly added on to it as their family had grown. I have a datebook that grandma kept from 1954-1960 (and sporadically after that) and it states that they added an addition to the living room in 1951 and finished the upstairs (expanding it from one room to two) in 1953. My grandmother also wanted indoor plumbing and my mom says that grandpa balked about that for years but finally grandma got her way, winning the battle of the outhouse in the early 70's. By the time I ran around the house playing, in the mid-70's, there was a small bathroom right off the kitchen and the outhouse was all boarded up.
That was the way grandma was, though. She didn't say much for the most part, and pretty much let my grandfather run things, but when she did want something or had just had enough of something, she usually got her way. Grandpa knew very well to relent the few times that grandma pitched a fit or put her foot down. They worked well together that way.
By the 80's, though, my grandparents were both in their 80's. My mom and dad and my brother and I had moved to north central Texas, my grandmother's siblings had all died and my grandfather's only living brother was also living in north central Texas. Getting through the Illinois winters was growing more difficult for my grandparents and grandma was tired of being away from her son. Grandma wanted to move to Texas. Grandpa? Well, he had his roots in Illinois soil and he didn't want to leave.
Of course you can guess what happened. They went to Texas!
They had a huge sale before they left Robinson and sold a lot of the old things that were in the house. I didn't realize how much history they'd sold until many years thereafter and even now, thinking about it, it makes me sigh in resignation. I was too young to know what all that would someday mean to me and grandma would say not to cry over spilled milk. I just hope that whoever bought all that old stuff appreciates it like I would if it were mine. Anyway, grandma told me once that a few years after they moved to Texas, grandpa told grandma that he wanted to go on back home. Grandma said she told him, "Virgil, you are welcome to go back to Robinson whenever you want, but you'll have to go on alone."
It was a good thing they did. Grandpa got sick from leukemia in late 1988 and died in December 1989. I tell that story in the first installment of this series, HERE.
I have so many other memories of my grandmother during those years she lived with my dad after my grandfather's death. Smiling with her at her 100th birthday party, surrounded by her family, and asking her how it felt to be 100 and laughing at her answer: "The same as it felt to be 99."
I also remember that grandma would watch every time my mom came home from the store, looking to see if they'd bought her a refill on her favorite Brach's butterscotch candies. She had a bell that sat by her chair in her room that she would ring if she needed anything. I remember her laugh and her tiny, hoarse sounding voice that was music to my ears. I loved the way her eyes would sparkle when I'd come into her room and visit.
I especially remember her when I was pregnant with my own daughter in the early 90's. She would pat my belly and tell me to take care of myself and I knew that she was hiding the worry she felt and reliving those times with my Aunt Martha in her head. My dad was doing the same. My parents brought my grandma up with them when I went into labor and he, my mom, and my mother in law sat outside the entire 12 hours smoking up a storm in their nervousness. Goodness, the three of them probably created an entire ozone layer on their own!
It was wonderful to lay my daughter in my grandmother's arms. I treasure the picture above. I treasure the fact that my grandma not only lived long enough to forge a relationship with me but also lived long enough so that my own daughter will always be able to remember her "great-nah-nee." I miss her every day and I will go to my own grave missing her.
She had a very long and wonderful life. I am so very privileged to have called her Grandma.
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