About a dozen years ago I found a book in a quaint shop in Walnut Grove that I had hoped would shed some light on a bit of family history.
The book, “Grandma, Tell Me Your Stories”, was kind of like a Page-A-Day calendar. She could flip the page each day to reveal a new question and fill in the blank space with a story.
Well, Grandma has told me several times since then that she’s not much of a storyteller. Then, clearly to change the subject, she’d say, “I don’t know where you learned to write stories — it certainly didn’t come from me!”
On Mother’s Day this year, I found that little book amid Grandma’s things that had been moved to her new home in an assisted living facility inWillmar. Most of the pages were still blank, to my dismay.
So, as we sat there in her small apartment — Mom working through boxes of photographs and asking Grandma to identify people in them from time to time — I opened the book and started asking questions.
Had I not left the book in her apartment (I was hoping she’d get bored and start writing again), I would have shared some of her stories with you today — on this, my Grandma’s 95th birthday.
Grandma Elizabeth — don’t call her Liz or Beth, she doesn’t like either — ought to have plenty of stories to tell about growing up in a farm family in South Dakota and Minnesota, but these days she can’t remember many of them.
There is one story she shared with us back in May that still makes me laugh. Mostly, it’s because I can’t imagine my sweet little Grandma being a devious older sister.
One day, annoyed by her little brother Otto and his incredible sweet tooth, my then-teenage Grandma took a trial-sized package of ex-lax from that day’s mail delivery and fed it to the chocolate beggar. The secret spewed out a couple of hours later when Otto’s tummy ache spawned questions from their mother. Grandma told me it was the one time in her life that she remembered “getting into trouble.”
Most of my memories of Grandma date back to my childhood. I can still remember her teaching me how to do a chain stitch in crochet, and convincing me to practice my embroidery with “smaller stitches.”
Grandma had to endure my bout with chicken pox when Dad was in the hospital, and she had to help me weigh my 4-H lambs — again when Dad was in the hospital several years later. When I went on my first job interview for a reporter position, it was Grandma who tagged along with me out toSturgis,S.D.We made stops at Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug and theBadlands— all places she had never visited before, nor since.
Grandma has told me several times that it’s the pits to get to be as old as she is. Her statement had much more to do with lost friends and family than it did with health — she’s still doing well for her age. Outliving her husband, brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends has made for some lonely times.
But, she still has her family — three children, nine grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and, just within the last year, her first, second and third great-great-grandchildren. We are all proud of her 95 years, even if we can’t all be together to celebrate her birthday today.