Grandma married when she was almost 19, my grandfather at the time was 17....and no, that's not a typo. He only had a sixth grade education because he dropped out of school to work when his father died so he was a man before his time. He went on to become a very successful businessman and the beloved Mayor of their town in South Georgia. He became very involved in politics so my little country girl grandma ended up rubbing elbows with all the most illustrious Georgia politicians in the 1960's and 1970's. She and my grandfather were even invited to Jimmy Carter's inaugural ball, but they declined (I can't remember why.) They also did some traveling abroad - quite a stretch for a girl who remembers seeing the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk (okay, a little exaggeration there, but not much! LOL)
When my grandpa was about to retire in the late 1970's, they built their "dream home". Fairly well off by local standards - remember this was small town Georgia - they built a lovely redwood home on the marsh with screened porches all around. My grandma grew up sleeping on porches in the summer time because of course there was no AC. When I asked her one time how hot and uncomfortable it was before AC, she answered, "Well, it just didn't seem as hot back then, at least not so's you'd notice". In the dream house my grandma would have nothing but a wood burning cookstove - that big cast iron thing like you see at Cracker Barrel. Unbelievably they were actually able to locate a new wood stove that she cooked on - no electric range, no microwave, no dishwasher - for the next 20 years. Of course they could afford all those luxuries but she didn't want them.
Grandma is a tiny woman, less than 5 feet tall and 100 lbs, but she'd kill a rattlesnake with a hoe all in a day's work. She'd go after a rat with a shovel or a broom. She ate bacon, lard, butter, pork and whole milk all her life and has enjoyed nearly perfect health. I've visited her at the nursing home and seen her pushing the wheelchair of a woman 20 years younger. She spends more time in her own wheelchair now because she is frail and unsteady on her feet, but she can get up and about when she needs to. Otherwise she insists on wheeling it herself - to keep up her strength, she says. And this is the God's Honest Truth, she still has all her teeth! Coffee stained (she LOVES coffee) but strong, straight, healthy teeth. She reads and does crossword puzzles and "rules" the little nursing home where she has lived the last five years only because the family didn't want her alone at home all day.
Longevity runs in her family, there have been a number of centenarians in the last few generations. Her own mother lived to 103, her grandfather to 107 and a great-aunt was still working in her garden, so the story goes, at 111. Grandma's sister "died young" at 97.
(Note: Sadly, for me, being adopted I did not inherit these genes. But my mom did, and will probably outlive me if this trend continues.)
In keeping with the theme of this blog, this is the part where I'm supposed to say that I grew up to the clackety clack of Grandma sewing on her old treadle Singer. But actually I can't remember ever seeing her sew on a machine. What I did see her do, decade after decade, was this:
These towels are old and have been washed many, many times. I grew up knowing no other linens except those edged in crochet by my Grandma. All 12 grandchildren received a heap of these for every birthday and Christmas for our Hope Chest. I have a linen closet full of these even after 30+ years of marriage and stacks of them still turn up every now and then that had been put aside for someone or other even though she had to give this up 10-15 years ago because of her arthritis. I was inspired by her to continue the art, and while not prolific, I do these myself once in a while:
So today I abandon theme to say Happy Birthday to my Grandma. She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.
Cook of wonderful Southern meals: Her recipe for biscuits begins with, "You take a chunk of lard about the size of your fist and you work it down into the flour, like this..." She thinks pasta of any kind is a strange, exotic dish and usually mispronounces it as "potsa".
Teller of hilarious homespun stories: "Papa used to keep an old bullfrog in the well to eat the mosquitoes. Sometimes he'd come up in the bucket, but we'd just take him out and throw him back in. The frog, that is, not Papa."
Spoiler and nurturer of children: The family doctor once gave her a list of foods she needed to feed her daughters who were quite small for their age. Breakfast, for example, was foods like cereal, toast, eggs, grits, bacon, pancakes, oatmeal, etc. After a few days of cooking every single thing on the list, she called him back in frustration and told him, "My girls just can't eat all that. By the time we get through breakfast, they can't eat another bite for the rest of the day!"
Devoted wife: My grandpa never lifted a finger around the house and that's the way she wanted it. She lovingly and happily doted on him every day of his life and she still misses him to this day (he died in 1983.)
Closet comedienne: During a particularly tedious reception at a political event, my Grandma started answering the question "How are you?" with things like, "Oh, just terrible, the house burned down today" to see who was really paying attention. The response was usually, "That's nice!"
Person who broke every food safety rule on the planet and lived 100 years to tell about it: "Oh, honey, that mold won't hurt you. You just scrape it off and eat the rest" when we'd find green leftovers in the refrigerator. Or she'd cover up the remains of our Thanksgiving dinner - meat, gravy, casseroles - and leave it out on the counter all day so we could just dig in again at supper time. No one ever got sick from this!
She has lived a simple life, a humble life, and a happy life. She is still smiling today and says she feels 25 years old. What a woman!