Many years ago, I won’t say how long, I was just a little girl. When I was my sons age I remember spending time with my Grandparents and my Great Aunt as they were our main baby sitters. Those special memories are something I will get to cherish for the rest of my life. It makes me so sad to think there are those out there who do not have those kind of memories with their grandparents. One of my grandmothers, to most known as the cranky one, has actually been a great teacher in my now older adult life. There were literally 4 houses between Grandma and Grandpa Davis. Grandpa Davis was I don’t even know what number for her marriages and it didn’t even matter by that point. I can remember walking down the street, making sure to NOT walk on Mr. Millers lawn to Grandma and Grandpas to do UGH more chores than ANY child should ever have to do. We would help Grandpa pick the fresh raspberries and strawberries from the garden and always fib to grandma that there wasn’t enough to fill the basket, mostly because grandpa had filled out bellies while we picked. Then we picked peas and anything else he may have been growing. Grandpa had a stroke I believe because I remember when I was really little, it was very hard to understand him. He could still walk everywhere until his diabetes became worse and caused him to lose both legs. That certainly did not slow him or grandma down. After the garden, we would go inside and bake something. I know, rough life. I know that is where I learned to love to bake. We would bake cookies, mini bread loaves, pies, and just about anything else grandma would be selling this week. Once the baking was done, you had to do the dishes. Boy were there a lot of dishes. We would go into grandmas sewing room and watch grandma and grandpa make stuffed animals. Cows to be exact and Vacuum covers. Again a cow or my new favorite piece, an elephant. They were made out of tube socks and colored with black magic marker. To this day there is still something about a large, chisel point black maker that makes me think of Grandmas sewing room. If you were lucky enough in your life, you may even have one of grandmas quilts for Graduation, Confirmation, birthday, or even a Tuesday. Every year since the day I was born until about 2 years ago, I have received a new quilt. You will never be cold in my house. We would help draw out the squares with that clear plastic cut out and a trusty black marker. My grandma has probably make hundreds of blankets in her life, maybe even thousands. She loved it and she was good at it.
Grandma was my go to girl in the 8th grade when we started taking sewing and baking. The baking was no problem, the sewing machine, well we were not very good friends. One of my semester end projects was a dress. A black plaid with sunflower jumper to be exact. I promise it was very cool and hip in 1998. It was a disaster. I went to grandma and showed her my work. She laughed and said well, not everything can be inherited. She quickly, and I mean quickly, fixed it and made it look just like the instructions said it would. She didn’t even use the instructions. Well needless to say, my teacher knew I had not done that work. It was very obviously not mine. I don’t remember my grade but I remember my grandma trying so hard to teach me what she did. I swear in a former life she must have been a mouse for Cinderella because she just whipped it right together from what was clearly nothing but material.
My grandma had an attitude, well lets face it she still does. She came from a good ole German family with Good old German sass. She is stubborn and outspoken and most of the time speaks before her brain has given her the proper way to let it out without being offensive. She is truly a woman after my own heart for when I’m in my 80’s. It has caused a lot of sadness in the family as she is not so nice to everyone in her world. But she has to be tough, she had to be from the start. From my point of view and my opinion, she was a young single mother and as the years went on a single woman trying to raise 6 boys and 2 girls. My grandpa Reilly was not always around and when he was he was a stubborn Irish. Now are you understanding why I’m such a sassy and tough girl. It’s in my blood. She had to do what she had to do to make ends meet, get by and if you have ever met one of my uncles, make enough money to feed that small army. You can’t be a weak and helpless woman. You have to be a mom and a dad and you are not always going to make friends. She has just stayed speaking her mind and didn’t care if you heard or liked it. She has the tact of a bull in a china shop and now its just an expected occurrence. Until now I guess.
Grandma is still sassy, still kind of sharp but not exactly the same woman of my memories. She has had a few strokes, a few small heart attacks and now she has held on as long as she could living in her home, my grandmas home just 4 houses away. In the last few months, she has had to give up the baking because the stroke has given her a weak arm and she can’t lift or stir the pans. She is bound to a wheel chair although the doctors thought she would walk if she would just give physical therapy a try. She’s just too weak and remember stubborn to make it work. Going though my grandmas home this summer, we found 3 rooms of fabric and sewing machines. Scrap fabric, clothes she promised to mend for people, blanket pieces and some things she didn’t even remember where she got them from. She had at least 8 machines that we knew would work or at least hoped. My aunts each got 2 and I got 2 and grandma took one with her to her new assisted living home although she isn’t very strong to work on anything anymore. My aunt is helping finish up some projects for her and I haven’t touched a sewing machine since that class in 1998. Going through her kitchen, I was excited to see all the same pans we had used when I was a child and even more excited when she said she wanted me to have certain ones. When I use them now with my kids, I know we are hopefully making the same memories. We also found 22 boxes of cake mix. There were not one expired in the bunch. Again, she just loved to bake.
At Thanksgiving this year, it made me realize more how little time I may have left with my grandma. Yes, she will probably live another 5 years, but realistically it made me see how different and older she has become. She couldn’t really see who had all come over for dinner and although rude, she legitimately could not see far enough to tell that someone was there and made a comment to the effect of them missing. She had a hard time speaking because she was so tired. She couldn’t hear very well and struggled to put her own jacket on. She was forgetful and you could tell took a long time to comprehend what people were talking about. You could see her try to take joy in eating with my son and when she didn’t understand him, he thought she was joking and it was all “Oh Grandma”. While at dinner she couldn’t get over the fact that a nurse at her new home had torn her night gown. Grandma came from a time where even as children I don’t remember getting anything brand new from her. I think that is why now it still doesn’t matter if it came from a store shiny and new or from a 2nd hand store. I can still hear my grandma when I was a child bring r a black garbage bag of “it could be brand new it looks so good” clothes that she had just scored a great deal on at the thrift store. Whatever we couldn’t use would go to a local charity so that the giving kept giving. Grandma didn’t need brand new. She would say, “it’s only as good as you take care of it” and “pick up those damn toys, your parents work very hard to give you such nice things and you are just going to leave them around the room to step on and break”. I’m pretty sure that is where my OCD comes from. She asked if I could bring over my sewing machine and help fix her nightgown. Of course I would. Although, I can barely make a pillow case, this is my grandma and she has done so much for me over the years, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I could have just gone out and purchased a new gown for her, something softer or warmer so she is comfortable but she likes this one.
This morning, my youngest and husband in tow, we went to Grandmas and helped set up a Christmas tree and decorations and brought my sewing machine. I got everything all set up and while the hubby decorated, I nervously started to pin the cloth together. My husband bought me a really nice set of sewing thingies for my birthday. It has different threads, bobbins and anything else you probably need. She thought it was “pretty fancy” and she “has never had anything like that, just a big table and a big tackle box converted to a sewing kit”. Realistically she has several tackle boxes and lord knows how many of these kinds of items. I was able to quickly sew them up and with a quick look over my Grandma said the words “will you look at that, you did good, I’m proud of you. Much better than the dress in junior high”. I knew my Grandma was still in there. She may not always say the right thing, she may not always seem like she is in a great mood, however she has always had a big heart. She loves her family, even if she doesn’t always show it. She is a God fearing, lover of life and watching her play with my daughter today reminded me of the kind love and heart she shared with me as a child. She was still the same woman I remembers. She then proceeded to try and pay me for my services because you should never expect anything for free. I said Grandma I cannot take your money, I owe you.