Grandma O’ Mine
May 9, 2008, 10:24 am
Filed under: daily | Tags: ,

Oddly enough, my 93 year old grandmother doesn’t read my blog. In fact, I once tried to explain the internet to her, and she just kind of shook her head and said, “the world is so different now.”

She also says that when I call her from my cell phone, and when she sees my mom’s mini cooper.

However, in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided that the best way to honor her was by putting her on The Internet. The one she doesn’t understand. It’s only logical, right? So here she is, Alberta Rose.

Alberta Rose, ca. 1930

Yes, that’s platinum blonde. All natural. No, I didn’t inherit it. I did get her skin though, something people tell me I should enjoy. Clearly they don’t have to deal with the eczema.

My grandma was born on July 5, 1914. To put that in perspective, she was born only a few months before we entered WW1. Woodrow Wilson was president. Cars and lightbulbs were in their early years, and only recently becoming widespread. She was the 3rd baby, and her mother died of tuberculosis only a few months after she was born. In all that hoopla, Grandma was essentially neglected. Her father worked long days to keep the rest of them alive, and Grandma was left with the neighbors. At around 6 months old, she became extremely sick and was taken to the doctor. She was malnourished, neglected, and sick with the measles, mumps and chicken pox all at once. The doctor told them to take her home to die. At this time, a woman had her eye on Grandma’s father, and knew that the best way to become this baby’s stepmother was by nursing her back to health. Grandma went from being expected to die to fully healthy in a short period of time. And now, she’s 93. The nurse, Minnie, became her stepmother.

A few years later, they moved to the midwest (Illinois, Indiana, etc) to become sharecroppers. Not exactly a money-making enterprise. They weren’t rich, but she had a rich childhood, with the farms as her playland. She went to a 1 room school house, and the only other student her age was a black boy. She didn’t know that was unusual. She was also allowed to write left handed. Again, she didn’t know that was unusual. Her stepmother produced a passle of children. Her older siblings, who remembered their mother, told her that Minnie wasn’t her mother. They failed to mention that she wasn’t their mother either, but it had her worked up for a while. Her older sister, Dot, covered Minnie’s after-supper cooling-off with tacks, pointy side up. Minnie sat on them. Dot ran into the corn fields and wouldn’t come out until they promised they wouldn’t kill her.

Eventually, the Great Depression happened, and sharecropping was not a good way to support a family, so they moved back to Pennsylvania, onto Cabbage Hill in the city of Lancaster. Cabbage Hill was named such because it was populated by Germans, and they were all poor, so they cooked ALOT of cabbage. The whole neighborhood supposedly smelled like cooking cabbage. They were also mostly Catholic Germans (an oddity. most germans are protestant, especially Lutheran). To say the least, it was the wrong side of the tracks. Years later, my dad was getting his haircut, and realized the barber grew up on Cabbage Hill, and that he knew Grandma. When my dad said her name, the barber paused, and said solemnly, “Alberta is your mother? She was the most beautiful woman to ever come off Cabbage Hill.”

She was a about 15 when they moved back to Lancaster. She attended a high school run by nuns. It was an early business school, and she graduated with the equivalent of an associate’s degree in business. In the 1930’s, that was a rarity. The nuns, however, were violently opposed to her being left-handed, and took it as their personal duty to retrain her. They had her stand up at the blackboard every day and write her name over and over with her right hand. The other students thought she was retarded. This upset her, and her stepmother went into the school finally and had words with the nuns about leaving her left-handedness alone. They did. What is notable about that story is that this was during the time that nuns were infallible. You didn’t argue with the nuns, and Minnie did.

She met my grandfather after she graduated. She had an excellent job working at Armstrong. They couldn’t get married during the Depression because she would have lost her job the minute they found out. In fact, when they finally got married, they eloped. To Maryland. Maryland was the Las Vegas of the day, because they provided easy weddings. More importantly, it wouldn’t show up in the Lancaster papers, so she could keep her job for a while, as long as she didn’t wear her wedding band.

When the war started, they moved to Baltimore so my grandfather could work building airplanes. My father and my aunt were born down there. It was down here that she met (supposedly) the Nixons. She didn’t mention this until sometime in the 1990’s, so we’re not sure if it really happened. They were stationed in Middle River, MD at the same time my grandparents lived there, so it’s possible.

My dad was a trial. He was bored, because the common belief then was that parents shouldn’t teach their children to read, because it would just ruin them. He wanted to read, but she wouldn’t teach him. So he got into trouble instead. He tried vacuuming the water out of the toilet (it didn’t work, and it hurt her vacuum cleaner). He set the kitchen on fire (he was trying to open a can of varnish, and figured that heating it up on the stove would help. It didn’t.). He locked his sister in a cow pasture (she was following him around, and she was afraid of cows.). He brought home creatures of the slithering type and left them in buckets (Grandma would leave the house, leaving notes like, “I’m not coming back until it’s gone.”). He was a trial. For allowing him to survive to adulthood, Grandma should be a saint.

They moved back to Lancaster County after the war, and they moved in with Grandpa’s grandparents in Terre Hill, a tiny town in northern Lancaster Co. Eventually, the grandparents died, and they were given the house (cheap! cheap! cheap! it runs in the family). Grandpa’s mother attempted to sue them for the house (it didn’t work.). Grandma had to deal with that sort of mother-in-law until a few years after I was born. Her mother-in-law never addressed her directly, and only made food that she knew Grandma hated when they were there for dinner. Again, Grandma is a saint.

She’s allergic to chocolate. She loves being a grandmother. She occasionally accidentally refers to Bear as my husband, and then catches herself and pretends that it didn’t happen. She tells me regularly that I need to marry him, because I’ll never find another man who will cook for me. She has asked me to explain evolution and the economy to her. She watches local and national news, and generally knows what’s going on. She’s had a number of strokes, so she has a hard time expressing herself occasionally. She remembers who I am, even though she has a hard time remembering if I’m the granddaughter who lives in Pittsburgh, or the one in Boston. I was her “favorite surprise”. Her other grandchildren were between 13 and 18 when I was born, and she wasn’t expecting anymore. She got to be a grandma all over again. I spent a lot of time with her when I was little. They would treat me to chewing gum and McDonald’s. She taught me how to play Rummy and Old Maid and Dominoes. When I was 4. My hands were too little to hold all my cards, so I would lay them on the chair next to me, and she would avert her eyes politely. She never let me win, but she also didn’t take advantage of me being 4. She would get on the floor and color with me when we were at the shore. She is so excited that I am going to be a librarian, because she thinks it’s perfect for me. She’s proud of me, and genuinely excited about my life.

She also likes when I visit her retirement home because she gets to introduce me as her granddaughter. Not many old bats there have granddaughters as young as I am, so I think it makes her feel young. Who would have thought having a 22 year old grandchild would make you feel YOUNG? When you’re 93, it does.

She’s a wonderful lady, a fantastic grandmother, and I love her. Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma, even if you don’t understand The Ole Interweb.

The Family at my parents\' vow renewal last Christmas


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[…] I can’t. My Grandma has decided to die. There’s nothing wrong with her. The woman is in astoundingly good health […]

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