Tag Archives: Grandma

I fell out of the Crazie tree and hit every branch on the way down – Part Two

Cuckoo Clan

p_v11agy64zae0464This week we start with my parents, Lewis and Virginia. (If you missed last week, click here.)

Mom grew up an only child, an unwanted one at that. My Great Aunt Margie told me that when Mom was little, if you asked her name, she’d say, “No, No, Virginia!” In grade school she was molested by the janitor. She ran home and told her mother who said never to speak about it again.

Mom graduated early from high school and went away to K-State at sixteen.  She said the minute she left her mother’s house, her life began and she rarely returned home.

Dad’s upbringing was the opposite. He had two sisters and was the beloved boy in his family. He served at the end of WWII, but the only danger he saw was while guarding AWOL prisoners.

Escorting a soldier to the privy, the guy stopped in his tracks and said “Would you shoot me if I ran?”

“I don’t honestly know,” Dad said, shaking in his boots. “Should we find out?”

In their last year of college, Dad as president of his fraternity, asked a popular girl to  the fall dance. At the last minute she cancelled so Dad called a young woman that had been hanging around him. Mom was so excited to be going with Dad she wore the name tag with the other girl’s name printed on it through the entire event. (Why I hate name tags.) Dad said Mom set her sites on him and he never had a chance and, besides, he didn’t have the heart to send her back to her miserable mother.

Mom and Kathleen eating popsiclesSo she packed away her taffeta dresses, her girdles, stockings and her high heels and moved with Dad to the family farm. Picture a less glamorous version of the TV show, Green Acres.

Dad neglected to mention to her that farm wives fix dinner (lunch to you city folk) for the men and the hired help working in the fields. The morning after their honeymoon, Mom’s new mother-in-law arrived early to help cook, only to find Mom in bed, reading a book.

Cooking was not Mom’s strong point so I can only imagine what got served that day. After that, Mom was relegated to setting the table and washing dishes while the farm women fried chickens, mashed potatoes, opened jars of their home-canned vegetables and served pie.

Dad with uncles in front yard

This picture of Dad is the way I like to remember him. Tall and lean with a dark farmer’s tan covering his arms. He was a heavy smoker and would roll the bottom of his jeans into a thick cuff where he shook the ashes.

Dad graduated with a degree in agriculture and was chomping at the bit to apply everything he’d learned. Unfortunately, Grandpa liked the old system and that’s the way it stayed.

The land (and the house we lived in) belonged to my Grandpa who would decide, on occasion, to pay Dad a share of the farm income. My entire childhood I heard Mom yelling at Dad, “You go over there and get our money right now!”

I said to my older sister the other day, “Remember mayonnaise sandwiches? I loved those.” She sighed. “Do you remember we had them because there wasn’t any food in the house?”

When Mom and Dad could no longer feed the family on what the farm made, Mom went back to school and became a teacher. Dad worked extra jobs where he could — laying asphalt for the city, helping Uncle Harold collect change from his juke box machines, and one long miserable year as a realtor.

He once applied for a job with a chemical company and they called him in for an interview. He had to take a train to the main office and was gone for a couple of days. Mom cried the entire time, terrified that he would take it because it would mean he would be gone a lot. They offered him the job but he turned it down.

Making money was something Mom and Dad never figured out how to do. But, one thing they were good at, was having kids.

ONE

ONE

TWO

TWO

THREE

THREE

FOUR

FOUR

FIVE

FIVE

SIX

SIX

SEVEN

SEVEN

And a few years later…

EIGHT

EIGHT

Tons of Fun

Tons of Fun

With Dad’s passive personality and Mom’s fiery one, it made for quite a roller coaster ride for us kids, but our parents were devoted to us and I never for one moment, even during my worst teenage years of hating my parents, felt unloved by them. We ran to Mom when we needed a hug and to Dad if we needed an ice cream cone.

It’s true, they didn’t know a thing about making money, but they did know how to make a family.

I would do whole thing over again, exactly the same way.

Continuation of a Mid-Life Crisis

I woke up one day and none of the clothes in my closet were mine.  I’m not making this up.

Okay, maybe I am, but that’s the way it felt.  I tried on 90% of my closet, and nothing seemed to fit – neither my body or my personality.

Over the next several days I bought and returned dozens of items.  A geometric print maxi-dress seemed fine in the store.  Maybe a bit “young” for me, but I was sure I could still pull it off.  And then I got it home, where I realized that, NO, I couldn’t pull it off and back to the store it went.

I’ve done this time and time again.  I’m in some sort of Limbo (the Catholic kind, not the game) where I’m too old for average women clothes and too young for old women clothes.

Last week, I hit bottom.  I gathered all my strength and walked into what I’ve always considered The Old Woman Clothing Store.  As I flipped through the racks of shapeless dresses and baggy capris, I had a running conversation with myself.

“I’m too young to wear these clothes!”

“No you’re not.  Look around at the other women here.  They’re not much older than you.”

“I don’t belong here”

“You do belong here.”

“I DON’T!”
“You Do!”
“Fine! I’ll try something on!!!”

I picked several items off the racks and trudged to the dressing room.  Just as I was stepping into my first outfit, hoping to god I wouldn’t look in the mirror and see my grandmother, I overheard this conversation in the store, right outside my dressing room door.

Salesclerk:  “Here we go.  I’ve put you in the largest dressing room  – where they’ll be plenty of room for your walker.”

Customer:  “Why, thank you dear.”

I ran out of that store so quickly I almost broke a hip.
————

Bonus Blog Post

While I was working on the blog post above, this email conversation occurred with one of my brothers. Caution – I’m leaving in the strong language.  I know, can you believe it?

Mike:  So FYI, I am officially a middle aged woman trapped in a man’s body.  In addition to frozen shoulder, it appears I now have varicose veins.  I found two cysts in my calf this weekend and went to get them checked.  The doctor is 99% sure that’s what it is.  I have to get a sonogram to confirm. Did mom have that?  Fuck!  Getting old sucks!

Teresa:  Well, yes she did, as do I.  But I didn’t think it was worth a dr. appt.  What will they do about them?  Are they dangerous or something?  FUCK YES, I hate getting old.

Mike:  He did not seemed concerned at all and what I can find online seems to say the same thing.  I think there are some cosmetic procedures to make them look better, but I will probably pass because looking good in heels is down on my list of worries.

————–

Enjoy your Fourth of July.  Here are the Crazie Town safety rules from last year, just in case you need them.

I Don’t Want That…

This week I’m taking care of two of my grandkids.  When I woke up the four-year-old in the morning, our conversation went like this.

I kissed her forehead and said, “Good Morning, Sweet Pea.”

She stretched and yawned,  then said.  “I don’t want that for breakfast.”

“I haven’t even told you what I’m cooking.”

“I know.  But I don’t want that.”

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately.  I don’t want that…I don’t even know what the “that” is that I don’t want.

In the morning, looking forward to some quiet time, I make my tea, pick up my journal and go to sit in an Adirondack chair surrounded by lush gardens.  But, that’s not what I want.

After breakfast, I go to my office to write.  As I’m driving, I’m working out a problem with my new novel.  I love this story but,  I can’t figure out how to describe the wings the main character is anxious to have removed so she can be like the rest of the teenagers.  Are they dragon wings?  Butterfly wings?  Bird Wings?  I don’t know and now…I don’t want to do that.

I’ve tried shopping therapy — I came home with hives from the stress.

I tried redecorating therapy — I haven’t finished, so now I have paint cans and brushes sitting around my house that have been there long enough, I actually had to dust them.

I even tried hair therapy, but you all know how that turned out..

I catch myself sighing every few minutes and now I’m afraid I’m turning into my Grandmother Nellie, who walked around expelling sighs loud enough to power half  the wind turbines in Kansas.

I heard a self-help guru recently who said if you change something in one part of your life, the part you want to change will happen, so when a friend of mine asked if I’d go with her to get training for a motorcycle license I said yes.  Unfortunately, that’s not until the fall.

Maybe the change I need right now is something that will help me lose those five extra pounds that are hanging around my middle.   I’ll stop at the store on the way home and buy something healthy to cook.

I climb in my car, and at the first red light I turn the opposite direction of the store because, sigh, even though I don’t know what I was going to cook, I know I don’t want that.

—–

Here’s my youngest grandson, dressed and ready to be admitted as the newest citizen of Crazie Town.  Care to join him?

Our new Fire Chief

Beware Alligators

Beware TO Alligators

I want to be one of those perpetually nice people.  Really I do.  But it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out that way.

Our last trip was to Kiawah Island.  We landed at 11:30 pm in Charleston.  Charleston hates me, by the way.  The one other time I’ve been here we flew in slightly ahead of a hurricane with enough turbulence to last me a lifetime.  Then the driver got lost and couldn’t find our hotel.  Then the hotel didn’t have any electricity.

But I digress.  This time there was no driver.  We waited around until midnight, then convinced another driver to abandon his rider and take us to the hotel.  We arrived at the check-in desk around 1 am – behind six other people, one of who was trying to change rooms because he had no hot water.

I’m reading a book by Fannie Flagg and one of the characters is a perpetually happy person.  Hazel convinces her friends to take belly dancing lessons and then to march in a local parade.  She sounds like fun.  Hazel sounds like someone I want to be like.

Instead, I’m like my Grandmother Nellie.  I spent the trip sighing, moaning and mumbling nasty remarks under my breath.

Evidently embodying Grandmother Nellie burns a lot of calories because I woke up the next morning starving.  Our villa was a ten minute walk to a restaurant and we came across this sign along the way.  My husband kindly pointed out that with my bad attitude he thought the alligators were the ones in danger.  I decided to be Hazel and let him live.

 

 

Missed Manners

I found this note, in my mother’s handwriting, as I was digging through a box that belonged to my grandmother. I swear, that woman can still make me feel guilty.

My grandmother, “Don’t you dare call me Grandma,” Nellie, had one goal in life — to teach her wild grandchildren to have good manners. As a child, I sat through hours of angst-ridden instructions on the proper handling of silverware and napkins. A lesson on how to hold your glass properly so as not to end up with a milk mustache seemed particularly useless. My only concern at home on the farm with my sister and brothers was how to obtain the actual milk before they did.

One Thanksgiving dinner Grandmother Nellie assigned me the chair to her right to “control Teresa’s fidgeting,” as she said. She spent the meal correcting my every move. “Pass the food from left to right. Don’t gulp your water, sip it. Quit fidgeting!” Toward the end of the meal she whispered between gritted teeth, “Get your elbows off the table..now!”

I yanked my arms away and slid my elbows through the slats in the back of the chair, where they promptly got stuck. I sat quietly through the rest of the meal. My arms were tucked tight against my sides, my elbows held firmly from behind by the hateful chair slats. I politely declined any extra food offered to me and although Grandmother expressed her unhappiness at the food left on my plate, she did praise me for sitting so upright and proper.

People began to notice something was wrong when I left the dessert, angel food cake (my favorite) untouched on my plate. Grandmother immediately demanded that I remove my elbows from the chair but I could not get them free. I’m not sure when the tears started, probably when my older brother suggested we cut off my arms.

Disgusted with the entire scene, Grandmother marched into her bedroom and returned with her face cream. She slathered up each of my elbows and they finally slid free. She hurried to the kitchen and returned with a soft dishtowel. Grandmother knelt down and murmured, “Oh dear, I hope there’s no damage,” as she gently wiped the greasy face cream from the slats of her chair.

Thanks to Grandmother Nellie, I am comfortable at any formal gathering. I know how to use the proper fork and which direction to pass the food. I can even drink a foamy latte without getting a milk mustache. And my elbows? They’re right where they belong. Safely resting on the table.