Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Grandma, originally uploaded by Snakelover61.

Today is Grandma's 83rd birthday! Mindy and I took her to lunch today to celebrate. Let me tell you a little bit about my mom's mom. First of all, she still lives on her own. She drives. She cooks. She mows her own yard. She cleans her own house. As a matter of fact, once a week she cleans my mom's house too. She babysits. Are you getting the picture?

She grew up in the great depression. When she was a little girl, she lived in a tent year round. Her dad worked in the timber. Making railroad ties. With a broad axe. For fifty cents each. They got their water from a creek and strained out the tadpoles and mosquito larva, which she called "wigglers." They ate wild game, poke salad and whatever they could pick or trade for to supplement what little they could afford to buy. As she said, "There weren't any fat people in the camps where I grew up."

They heated the tent with a wood burning stove. They had no furniture, only cots and foot lockers, which served as beds, storage, chairs and tables. They made their own soap. And a lot of other things that we take for granted. They washed their clothes in a tub over an open fire, agitating them with a stick. And hung them on branches and over bushes to dry. They had coal oil lamps, which she said they were hardly ever allowed to burn because, "Daddy was so tired by the time it got dark, he didn't want the light on."

She had four brothers. But one was killed at age 17 when a tree fell on him. Grandma worked in the fields, picking whatever was in season. She dropped out of school when she was in the sixth grade to work full time. It was a very different time.

She was working as a waitress when she met my grandpa during WWII. He was a staff sergeant in the army and had already seen combat. He was temporarily stationed in California to help train new recruits. But after my mom was born, he was sent back overseas. He received three purple hearts. He was shot, cut with a bayonet and blown out of a foxhole by shell fire, but I don't know if those were the particular things for which the purple hearts were awarded. I do know he had a lot of scars. Some shrapnel messed up his insides pretty bad and the surgeons weren't able to put everything back exactly as it had been. He was plagued with stomach and digestive problems for the rest of his life. But I'll tell you one thing. He never missed a chance to take his grandson fishing!

Grandma and Grandpa had four children. My mom is the oldest, followed by Tony, Connie and then Mike. My uncle Tony was killed in a car accident during his second year of college. Grandma told us of that again today with tears in her eyes. She still grieves. She grieves for Grandpa too. He died of cancer about 25 years ago. I had to think about that and I can't believe it's been that long. I miss him.


The picture above is of Grandma and Mom. There's so much more I could tell you, but I think I'll stop there. Happy Birthday, Grandma!


Cher said...

Yes, happy birthday today to both your grandma and my husband. Must be a good day for good people to be born!

The Texas Woman

ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage said...

Happy birthday to Grandma! I love the history and the nostalgia in your post today. I can tell you love her dearly and she is a very special woman. I find her inspirational! I am also grateful to your grandfather for how he served our country. Such a very special heritage you have!


Primitiques 'n Poetry said...

I didn't even notice the fish in that last picture, I was so drawn to the beauty of Grandma and the face of your mother. You do have a beautiful family, love. ~Mindy

Beth said...

whew, I started off with a huge smile thru the first few paragraphs and ended with tears in the last.
what a different and special generation, there may never be another like them.... they are amazing. she is amazing.

David said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I did a little editing today because I was afraid people might infer a direct correlation between the purple hearts and the particular injuries I mentioned. The fact is, Grandpa suffered a lot of injuries and wounds and I don't know which ones he was awarded purple hearts for.

One problem is that Grandpa wouldn't talk much about the war, even to Grandma. I do know he often did reconnaissance work. He and two or three other men would go ahead of the main group to gather information about what was ahead. That was a particularly dangerous assignment and several of his buddies were killed.

Grandma is a pretty remarkable woman and the ultimate tomboy. One thing I remember from my childhood is that she was deadly accurate with a .22 rifle. "Whoa, Grandma, where'd you learn to shoot like that?!" She also makes the best fried chicken bar none!

Phyllis said...

Thank you for sharing some of her incredible story...and happy birthday to her!!

thedomesticfringe said...

Happy Birthday to your dear sweet grandma. Thank you for sharing a snippet of her story. She sounds like an amazing woman.
Your grandparents story sounds very similar to my grandparents. My grandpa passed away this summer at 93. Those in our granparent's generation are fighters. They know the value of life and how to live and they certainly are not afraid to work.

Please pass on our best wishes to your grandma. I pray she sees many more birthdays of health and activity.

Moonlight Hollow Musings said...

What an amazing woman...Grandma! And what a wonderful tribute from you to Grandma! Sounds to me like she is truly a "Steel Magnolia".

You have a gift of words when it comes to the people you love.