I wrote recently about several people that have passed away that I wish I could talk to once more and what I would tell them. I have another special person I would like to tell you about today since today is Father’s Day and my great grandma was a huge influence on my dad.
My great grandmother, Maude Rose was an amazing woman for her time. She was one of nine kids born on a farm in Rockport, Illinois. By the time I was born, my grandmother was born she was 66. I didn’t really know my great grandma until I was 13 due to the fact we lived 150 miles away until we moved back to the city most of my dad’s family lived in.
I was very close to my grandma and on Saturdays I would have my mom drop me off at the library and after spending time reading and picking out books to check out I would call my Grandma Rose to see if I could walk the few books to her apartment and visit her.
Grandma Rose was very hard of hearing and back in those days you had to use a pay phone to make calls in public. This was in the late 70’s so cell phones weren’t even thought of. So every time I had to make the call to my grandma I would find a dime in my pocket, drop it in the slot, dial (yes I said dial for those of you under 30) and wait for her to answer.
Once my grandma answered thee challenge began. I was in a quiet library and my sweet grandma was in her apartment. I would try to say in a soft, normal voice, “Grandma, I’m coming right over.” Inevitably I would hear her say, “What? I can’t hear you.”. A bit above a normal voice I again would say, “Grandma, I am coming right over.” Here it comes again, “What? I still can’t hear you.” Finally as if I was singing an operatic chorus at the top of my lungs I would repeat again, “Grandma, I am coming right over!”.
Librarians would shush me and guests at the library would turn and look at me. I would put my head down, rush out the side door and head to my great grandma’s.
The walk to her house was about five blocks and was a lower income area. I am not really sure why I was allowed to walk this area as a girl in my early teens but the good Lord looked over me and I always made it.
When I would get to my destination I would have to stand inside an enclosed entryway with glass doors. I would have to ring to my grandma’s apartment for her to buzz me in. I was always a bit nervous standing in this spot because I felt like a caged animal waiting for the zookeeper. BUZZZZZZZ, I could now go in.
The next adventure was going up to the seventh floor on an extremely rickety elevator. The elevator was so small that only 3 slim people could fit inside it. It would make all different types of creaking noises and bang loudly on starting and stopping. Every time I got the elevator my grandma would be at her door waiting for me. I can still she her standing there in her dress with her clock necklace hanging around her neck.
Our regular activity when I came over would be to make donuts out of canned biscuits. My grandma would get her electric skillet out and put some lard in it. For those who don’t know, there is a product called Crisco and shortening. Shortening is a fat made from vegetable oil chemically transformed into a sold state through hydrogenation. and definitely nothing we would eat today for health reasons.
My grandma would open a can of biscuits, lay them out on the counter and use a thimble to cut a circle directly in the middle of the biscuit creating a donut hole. She would proceed to fry them in them and when they came out of the hot shortening, she would sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar.
As we ate the donuts and donut holes, Grandma Rose would show me pictures of her family throughout the years. My grandma outlived all her siblings, her parents, her children and her husbands. I was always sorry this was the way it was but I’m not so sure I would have had a relationship with her if she hadn’t lived to 98.
When I got married to my first husband my great grandma had moved into a nursing home. I would try to visit her at least once a week and either eat lunch or still and spend time with her. I loved her stories of growing up in the country on a farm with all those siblings. She once told me about her brother that smashed his finger in the apple press and they had to load him in the horse and buggy to take him to the nearby doctor. I can’t even imagine how different her life was from mine.
My grandma’s family had a pump to collect water, outdoor plumbing, no modern medicines only country remedies. Everything the did was manual labor and there were no modern conveniences of any sort. I sit at times just dreaming about what a day in her life would have been like.
I once heard the story when she was seventeen and ran away to the train station to meet her Native American beau to run off and get married. He father caught her and drug her back home. The marriage never happened.
Towards the end of my grandma’s life she found it difficult to eat. Nothing had flavor to her, it could have been her aged taste buds or the fact she was eating nursing home food. He favorite food was homemade custard. I would take the time to make this for her and take it to the nursing home. I made it exactly to her recipe by hand and slow cooking it in the oven.
Her eyes would always get brighter when she saw me with the custard. My daughter Lexie was born in August of 1994 and I took her once to see my Grandma Rose when she was 4 months old and took a picture of the three of us together. My grandma died the next month. I am trying to locate a copy of that picture to insert in my blog and will update it when I get a copy.
What I would say to my great grandma is you made me the strong woman I am today. You were married several times and life got better with each marriage. You had a strong faith and always attended church regularly. But most of all grandma, you gave me the love to cook through making me the donuts for me and sending the extras home with me. You also gave me special memories by bringing you your favorite custard.
You will forever be in my heart.