Friday, July 13, 2007

Memory Lane: Grandmother's

Growing up there was always a huge difference between my Mom's family and my Dad's family. We tended to celebrate more with my Dad's family (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) than with Mom's, not sure why we just did. My Dad is the youngest of three (Jim, Beula Ilene, and Dad) children. My Uncle Jim lived in California with his wife and three children for most of my childhood and only moved "home" when I was 12 (they moved to Tulsa). My Auntie Ilene lived in the same town as we all did and had two children (Tiger (aka David) and Julie). She was married to my Uncle David--twice!

My Poppa, whose name I share with honor, was a widower before marrying my Grandma. In fact he had raised a family entirely on his own after his wife died. He met my Grandma when he was at a diner where she worked as a waitress, he was 50 and she was 20. They fell in love and married! My Poppas youngest daughter (Aunt Fern) was the same age as my Grandma when they married! We are talking 1940's here folks! That's a shocking age discrimination today!

My brain has been wanting to get a "Grandmother" story out for quite some time and I have been reluctant, but today is the day I give in and let it free. The reason I hesitate is because my Grandmother was...well she is mean. She's 91 now, but still has that streak of meanness to her. I think for my Sister and I it was the unbelievable favoritism she showed to Tiger and Julie over me and Sis. It was incredibly obvious that she preferred to be around Tiger and Julie and could care less if were around her at all. Christmas was always the same. Tiger and Julie got the great gifts and we got the...other gifts. My most memorable was the glove set I got with my sheet of stickers to monogram them! Our stockings were always filled with free toothbrushes she got from the Dentist office where she worked. We also had pencils in there and other ephemera that I can't remember.

I have two memories of staying the night with my Grandmother, both under duress because Granny and Robba were busy and couldn't keep us. I can remember watching the sun go down as I was tucked in for the night. I knew better than to get up, I had to lay there until the sun came up--LONG NIGH! On snow days Dad would drop me off at her house on his way to work so I wouldn't have very far to walk to school. This was way after Poppa died (he died when I was 8 years old) and she lived alone. Grandma's house was very cold and unwelcoming. She never really welcomed me with any excitement or enthusiasm just, "stay out of the way and don't bother me." Her radio played the local morning show with Herckemer P. Pushbroom (that wasn't his real name, thank God). It was always a crazy show with people calling in about a loose cow, or a "really good heater I got for sale". He would also read the school lunch menu everyday and make over it like he was reading the menu of a five star hotel. We weren't fooled!

Tiger and Julie called Grandmother, "Gam" which she happily welcomed and enjoyed being called. Lesa and I were not allowed to call her anything other than Grandma and were quickly corrected if we even strayed from Grandma. At Grandma's house we were allowed to play outside no problem at all, free as a bird. In the house was a different story. We were to stay in the living room and sit on the couch. We couldn't walk around or do too much to cause a stir, if we needed a drink or a snack we were to ask. "Grandma, may I have a drink?" "Didn't you get a drink before you came?" "Well...yes, but I'm thirsty again." "[Deep sigh] I guess...go get some water out of the tap" Opening the fridge was out of the question and Lesa and I were afraid to ask for anything and had just decided we would go forage for seeds in the yard.

On the rare occasions that Tiger, Julie, Lesa and I were together in the house we would look at how they ran through the house with wide-eyed, jaw dropped amazement. They ran to and from, opening the fridge, getting soda's eating cookies, amazing! Grandma never said a word to them. "Gam, I'm hungry" "Sugar, find something, don't leave the fridge open." Lesa and I sat there frozen only turning our eyes toward each other with our mental conversation going something like, "can you believe that they are allowed to open the door and run to and from the rooms like wild chickens?"

Our entire life, both Mom and Dad left the house way before Lesa and I got up. During the school year it was up to us to get up, get ready and make the bus on our own. There were times when we would miss the bus and wake up in a frantic panic driven scramble to figure out how we would get to school in time knowing that Dad would not be happy if we missed the bus again. Only in desperation would we call Grandma. "MMMMMMello" That's how she answered the phone, kind of warming up an engine to say hello. "Grandma, we missed the bus would you be able to take us to school." "What? Missed the bus..."on and on she would go lecturing us on how we should be more responsible and blah blah blah. We knew that the minute Dad got home there would be a phone call. "Larry, those kids of yours missed the bus again. I just can't pick them up every little whip stitch and take them to school" Dad would always apologize and then drop the hammer on Sis for her irresponsibility. We solved the problem by using my Mom's coin collection to pay for cabs. She had a ceramic rooster cookie jar on the fridge that had silver coins, and another cookie jar that had pennies. We would use that money for the cab. The driver was usually the same and always thought it kind of funny that he was picking us up, "miss the bus again?" "yes sir" "whose first, you or your sister?" Sis always went first because her school bell rang earlier. He usually stopped the meter at her stop and saved us some money. We knew it was odd to be taken to school in a cab, but it was a lot better than the alternative. We held that secret in until we were well into our adult hood and though it would be ok to tell.

I always pursued my Grandmother's love and still do to this day. My sister does not like my Grandma and doesn't have anything to do with her, that bridge was burned a long, long time ago. I never gave up and always loved her harder and pursued her move because I knew she didn't really love me. We sat together every Sunday morning. We picked her up for church Sunday night's and when my Dad drove the Gospel Chariot on Wednesday night we would sit with him on the bus and share a seat. I called her two and three times a week to just chat with her. I was determined that I would love her like I loved all of my family regardless of how she treated me.

When I left for school I started writing her letters, and we have been pen pals ever since. I left for school in 1992. I write her every Monday and she will write me back. I think we are close and I know she loves me, I've always love her. She has said that I am the only grandchild that knows she is alive because I'm the only one who calls or writes. I think after all of these years I have broken through to her heart and we have a love for one another that Grandparents and Grandchildren should share.

She has made me two quilts (one for High School graduation and one for College graduation) and a quilt for each of my babies. I have all of the letters that talk about the quilting process for each one of the kids and will pass along the letters and the quilts to Teensy and the boys and em part the memory of a Great-grandmother who loved them very much. That's how it should be.

I don't know what happened in her life to make her build such a wall around her love but there must have been something in her life to make her keep all of that inside and not share it with many. While most of my memories are of how mean she was and how much favoritism she showed there are also memories I have of her that are great--I love my Grandma unconditionally.

Once I was recruited to mow her yard and we were in the back yard getting ready to put gas in the mower. How we would get the gas from the can into that tiny hole we weren't sure. The foam cup from McDonald's looked like it might work so we gave it a shot. NOTE: Do not attempt to dispense gas into a foam cup! The gas reacts to the cup as an alka-seltzer reacts to water only faster! We still laugh about that. There was also another time when I learned how to change a tire, as I went.

Everyone has to make a conscious choice to love or not love someone. I wish my sister loved my Grandmother, but I understand why she doesn't. More people than not wonder why I love her. They just can't believed that I have any thing to do with her at all. For me I can't imagine not having anything to do with her. Everyday I know she is closer to her last day, and just don't want to spend the rest of my life regretting the fact that I didn't do everything in my power to build a relationship with someone I love. I have to own up to and live with my actions; I would rather spend my life without regret.


Tracy said...

you're a good man mister will :-)
it is interesting to wonder why she acted the way she did toward you and your sister. i wonder if you'll ever know?