Today is Grandma McPeak’s birthday.
Some time ago, I had lunch with her. You know how people often have endearing names for their grandmothers — Nanny, Granny, Mama, etc… Well, Grandma McPeak has always just been “Grandma” – as if she defined the role.
She met me at the door with a smile.
Come on in. Make yourself at home.
I brought you some good food for lunch, Grandma.
Did you make it? (sounding surprised)
Well, no, Connie did.
Bless her heart. You tell her I said thanks.
I set the broccoli salad, cantaloupe (or “mush melon – as Grandma calls it), green onions, and plums on the table, then fixed our plates with pork, ham and beans and green beans. Grandma was standing by the microwave.
Do you mind putting these in for a minute, Grandma?
(looking confused) Well, I’m afraid you’re going to have to do it.
I just can’t see the buttons anymore. My eyesight is getting worse.
We sat down to eat and I said grace.
How was your trip to New York?
Very good. It was great to see the children. They are growing up so quickly. Hannah is becoming very responsive and affectionate. Caleb is counting, writing, and reading now. Grace starts Bible Institute in a few weeks. Sarah is working in a bakery, at a farm stand, and helping her mother get the dry goods store going.
They’ll probably all be married with children before I see them again.
Well, you never know.
This has always been a sore subject with Grandma. Since we’ve established a home for our family several hundred miles away (near my wife’s parents), Grandma has missed seeing the children grow up. She doesn’t complain about it so much anymore, but she also doesn’t hesitate to point it out.
After lunch, we moved out to the porch. It was a gorgeous day, but there was a cool breeze blowing.
Are you going to be warm enough, Grandma?
I’m fine with this sweater on. I’ll let you know.
We sat down.
It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? I asked.
It sure is. Look at the wind blowing that tree though. (pointing to the large oak beside the porch) It’s dangerous, you know. One of these days, that tree is going to fall right on the house. But you can’t get anyone to cut it down. Costs you an arm and a leg. Why, I think they charge you about $100 a tree.
Is that right?
Everything’s so expensive anymore. I don’t see how young folks with children make it.
People today seem to want everything. It wasn’t like when you grew up.
Well, that’s true. We didn’t have much. We might have had two dresses. My mother made them herself, out of flour print sacks.
She didn’t have an electric sewing machine either, I bet.
No, she pumped it with her feet.
Did you grow up near Bowling Green, Grandma?
No, more between Liberty and Somerset. It was way out in the country. A place called Yosemite. It was on a hill. Not much of a hill, but it sure seemed big when you had to walk up it with short legs.
And you farmed?
Yes, a little bit of everything. Vegetables. Tobacco. I remember picking worms off of tobacco plants as a child. We were afraid of them.
Did they bite?
Well, they had stingers. But mostly they were just nasty. We didn’t know any better.
Did you have any books at home?
My, no. I wish we did. I really enjoyed reading. Just about anything. But no, we didn’t have any books.
Did you go to the library?
Not a library, exactly. A store.
And they let you read there, without buying the books.
Yes, they let you read there.
Where did you go to church?
Church was in town, down the hill, near the school.
Was it a Baptist church?
Yes, we went to the Baptist church, and other churches. Whoever had the meetings.
Yes. Us kids would go whether our parents went or not. But Daddy would always carry the lantern behind us.
Why didn’t he go with you?
Well, it’s hard to explain. He didn’t really have any nice clothes. Just old dungarees. He didn’t feel right about it. But he always made sure we went.
It was a great visit. We talked about faith and health and fears of falling and aging. We talked about the world as it was and as it now is. One of my favorite remarks of the day came as Grandma was discussing doctors.
Back when my children were young, doctors used to come to the house. I remember when Sue was a baby, we lived way out in the country. She had a terrible fever and we weren’t sure she’d make it through the night. The doctor came all the way out and stayed right beside her all night long, until the fever broke in the morning. You couldn’t get a doctor to do that today. Now, they make you come in and they talk with you for a few minutes, telling you things you don’t understand. I don’t think they understand. Doctors aren’t as smart as they used to be. Do you suppose they got tired of learning?
That’s Grandma for you. On days like these I miss her very much. I wish I had her spunk, her determination, her strength. I like to think some of her faith and wisdom lives on in me. Mostly her faith.