THE MEMORY MAKING GRANDMA
I had a grandma and because of her it is very important to me to be actively involved in the lives of my own grandchildren. I actually had two grandmas, however, only one of those was actively involved in my life. She was my memory making grandma!
My grandma was full blooded Norwegian, having come to America on her own, with a girlfriend at the age of 18. She raised 3 children and became a widow at the age of 50 after my grandfather died of heart problems at age 58. Quiet, unassuming and resourceful, she earned money after the death of my grandfather by taking in boarders in her large, older Pacific Northwest home.
By the time I was born my grandma was in her late 60’s and had long since sold her home in the city. She worked occasionally as a house sitter but the majority of each year was divided living in the homes of her 3 adult children and their families.
Grandma was one of the best blessings in my life. I don’t recall my grandmother ever getting angry at me or my siblings. She quietly went about life, helping with household chores, cooking, sewing for us, slipping us a piece of gum or a peppermint candy, from her seemingly bottomless supply.
Thinking about her now, as an adult, I realize how difficult her life must have been. From coming to America alone at such a young age, building a life with her husband, raising a family, living through the Depression, and becoming a very young widow. Having to figure out a way to earn a living, hold onto her home and finish raising her youngest child, all at a time when there weren’t many jobs for women and even less for those of her educational background. Later selling her home and due to her meager income (a small pension from her husband) having to spend the rest of her life living with one of her children and their families. I realize now, as an adult, how difficult that loss of independence must have been for her.
She loved her coffee and a little sweet, a cookie, a pastry of some sort. Although she spoke with almost no accent, Norwegian had been her only language until coming to America at which time she learned English. One remaining trace of “accent” was mixing up her j’s and her y’s. She could actually pronounce both but mixed their usage consistently. So she would ask if we wanted some “yello” when offering us a bowl of jello. The town of Yakima in Washington State was always “Jakima” to her. Funny the little things you remember about someone so many years later.
Cats loved my grandma almost as much as I did. We lived on a farm and didn’t own a single cat but the day my grandma would arrive to visit the cats would start showing up. My dad used to say they sensed she was in town and knew she would feed them.
There are many negative memories from my childhood but my grandma was the one person in my life who consistently loved me and was a quiet positive loving influence. She didn’t have a lot of money. She couldn’t take us to fancy or expensive places. She couldn’t even drive a car. But she made memories with us that are life long. When asked, she would occasionally tell us stories about Norway or about when our mother was a little girl living in the city. She took us on the train to visit our aunt in the city. Most important, she was there! She could be counted on to be there each day. A constant in our lives. A positive person who knew us, knew our schedules, knew when we needed a hug. The thing she provided most was love. It was quiet, unassuming and it was consistent. Until the day she died that never changed.
Those memories and the positive impact she made in my life made me realize the importance of being an actively involved grandma in the lives of my own grandchildren. I want to be that consistent loving person in their lives. I want to leave them with positive memories of our time together while they were growing up long after I leave this earthly body. I want to be that kind of grandma…the memory making grandma.