Last week we said our goodbyes to our last living Grandma. As expected, it was difficult, though memories of many years together helped provide much comfort. I was so very blessed to have had my mom’s parents around to see me graduate from high school, college, get married, and meet my two kids. While Grandpa Mark passed away in 2013 (I wrote about some memories of him), my Grandma lived on to reach age 87.
Grandma can be described as independent, generous, hardworking and kind. I always remember her home full of family socializing around holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. We often went to classic Wisconsin supper clubs together to enjoy fried chicken and meals served family style. Grandma was the matriarch of our family, raising three independent, strong daughters while working on their farm for over fifty years.
I have so much respect and admiration for all of my grandparents, given how much the world has changed in their long and full lives.
Many Changes in 87 Years
My Grandma was born in 1930. She remembered hobos coming up to their farm house and asking for food. Her mom would always manage to find something to give them, but made them sit outside and eat.
She attended school in a one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade. After that she was needed to work on the farm. I remember her telling me that she would have liked to have gone to school longer and might have even become a teacher. Though she didn’t teach in a classroom, our family will long remember her lessons and values she passed on to all of us.
As she went on to tell my mom, that’s just how things were back in the 1950’s: few women worked outside of the home, unless you were a nurse or a teacher. Women got married, kept up their home, raised children, and in my grandma’s case helped on the farm. She would drive the tractor and work alongside my grandpa. Running a farm certainly takes a lot of hard work.
My grandma was proud of her daughters, who all went on to work full time and raise their own children. When my mom had me and my sister (and after we had graduated from college), my grandma commented that her granddaughters “didn’t need a man to provide for them.” So true – how things have changed in 50 years!
The Original Girl’s Night
Along those lines, my grandma and her friends had their own “girl’s nights” except they took place on Tuesday mornings at the area bowling alley. There was even a newspaper clipping that showed my grandma leading her team with a score of 186! When she talked to my grandpa about the possibility of bowling on Wednesday mornings too, he told her, “Dorothy, well, I don’t know about all of you women getting together at a bowling alley.” Her response, “Mark, who’s going to pick up a bunch of farmers’ wives at 9 am in the morning?” She went on to enjoy bowling with her friends two mornings a week.
Grandma & Grandpa
When my grandparents were married in 1950, my grandma moved to grandpa’s farm, where he had led the life of a bachelor for several years. He only had 1 fork and 1 spoon, and when he made her eggs, he first gave her the spoon. My grandma refused to use the spoon, so he let her have the fork! My grandma just laughed at this memory and would shake her head every time she would retell it. She truly was the one who made their house a home!
As I mentioned earlier, there was always a lot of talking at family gatherings. My grandpa was notorious for his jokes and stories. I always liked it when he did something to make Grandma say, “MARK!” in her disapproving, scolding tone. Grandpa’s eyes would get really big, he’d raise his shoulders and cross his arms, and say, “I’m in trouble!”
So Many Good Memories
I was so blessed to have shared so many years with Grandma and fondly remember the earlier days when we’d visit their farm. There was always something to do on the farm: playing with the kitties in the barn, petting the calves and seeing the big cows, climbing around the hay mow, sledding and snowmobiling in winter too. One friend once asked, “Doesn’t everyone have a grandma who owned a farm in Wisconsin?” Yes, many do! And I certainly loved mine.
While the later years were more difficult as her health declined (farm work is tough on a body), I still enjoyed visiting grandma with my own family. As I put together the photo boards for the visitation and funeral, I especially loved seeing the pictures of Grandma with her great grand kids. She gazed down at them so lovingly, so full of pride.
The great grandkids always brought a smile to her face. I have pictures from Mother’s Day this year, ones I took and others that my seven year old daughter took. My daughter’s picture captured Grandma with a genuine smile much bigger than those in my pictures.
I’m so glad my kids were able to get to know you, and I hope that all of us grandchildren brought you joy and made you proud. Love you always, Grandma.