Tales of My G-ma – Wishing Her a Happy 82nd Birthday

A long drive away, in a state far, far from Texas, there is a land called “Iowa”.

The summers are hot and sticky.

The winter winds slice through ten layers of clothing.

This land is home to most of my family: my parents, my grandparents, my brother, and in another month, my sister and brother-in-law.

It is why today, I will talk of my G-ma, who has yet to shine in the spotlight on my blog.

May 2nd is her birthday and I sit over 900 miles away, unable to give her a hug or my company as a gift.

This blog is for you, G-ma.

My G-ma (and G-pa) live within a mile of my parents. They always have. As a grandchild, this provides an enormous amount of “perks”.

She helped raise me, giving us a closeness I long for my own children to have with their grandparents.

My mother worked, so each day she dropped me at my G-ma’s (my sister too). It provided hours and hours for us to bond.

A park existed a few blocks from her house. We walked to it often, though the playground was rather dull. I was eight or nine the summer a basket weaving project was put on there. A wading pool was filled with water, the wooden reeds soaked until soft. A teacher showed me how to weave my basket.

My G-ma helped me carry the unfinished basket to her home. There, she filled her tub and soaked the basket, so I could finish it as a gift to my mother. I recall it left a nasty film around the edges, but she never complained.G-ma was a mother in the 50s. By the time the 80’s rolled around, she was tired of cooking, except for family meals. I remember many a lunch time, sitting in my favorite high stool, watching her heat my Chef Boyardee meal.

G-ma raised two toddlers alone while G-pa was stationed in Korea.

The “no cooking rule” didn’t apply to baking or holidays. My fondest memories are baking in her tiny kitchen. Oatmeal cookies were my favorite. I’d help measure and mix as we used her “from scratch” recipe, forming the mushy balls of dough and sneaking bits into my mouth. The joy of tasting the result while it was still warm from the oven.

Homemade brownies were another favorite. Also from scratch.

I think I just drooled on my keyboard.Around age 5, I woke up from a rare nap to find a May Day basket on my bedroom door. Inside was the cutest little doll hiding in a peanut shell – from her.

I helped G-ma with her garden. Watering the rhubarb (which she baked fresh rhubarb pie with), picking the cherry tomatoes, and selecting the perfect rose from her rose bushes.

Evenings with G-ma and G-pa meant dinners out. Our favorite prime rib special on Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were open for discussion, but Friday was always La Pizza House pizza. She never forced me to order anything, always letting me choose what I wanted.

Nights spent in “my room” at her house ended with us saying prayers, for my mother who battled lymphoma.

As a parent, I admire how she took me and my sister to the Iowa State Fair every year by herself. It was hot. Dusty.

It didn’t matter. We quenched our thirst with overpriced lemonade – so delicious.

We always hit the elephant ear stand, my favorite snack.

The petting zoo brought one rule: don’t feed the ostrich – it pecks. The goats nibbled us with their greedy lips, as G-ma bought plenty of pet food.

She and G-pa took us to the Worlds of Fun amusement park for the first time, a 3.5 hour drive away.

Once, I sat in a hotel lobby as some sort of waiting lottery went on; G-ma secured a hotel room for us by our local amusement park of Adventureland.

We lived twenty minutes away. She wanted to give us a fun experience, of pool time, continental breakfasts, and hitting the park nice and early.

As I aged, our relationship altered.

Sometimes, I was brat: the ungrateful tween who didn’t realize how lucky I was.

She recorded MacGyver on USA for me, because I didn’t have cable. I watched the entire series (which I was addicted to) because of this. At 14 years old, I’d go see her after school, to hang out and watch it, sometimes joining her and G-pa for dinner.

Every Easter, Valentine’s Day, and birthday a card has my name on it, usually with a gift or check attached, although now my children are usually the recipients.

During the Floods of ’93, she rented a hotel room so we could shower.

With three grandchildren in college using email, my parents gift G-ma with her first computer (we only wrapped the keyboard).

When CG and I moved to Texas, we needed a place to crash for a single night – with my cats. G-ma took us in, my own parents refusing an exception the Anti-Cat Clause. We arrived at midnight, exhausted after an unplanned snafu in moving.

She welcomed us. With a hug. With food. With conversation until we passed out.

CG and I taught her and G-pa the game Mexican Train – such a huge hit it passed on to my parents and was played in many hotels for my brother’s hockey games.

She makes THE BEST deviled eggs.

I have her recipe.

It’s never the same.

My family agrees. In 2009 when my entire family visited us for Christmas, we voted for her deviled eggs for Christmas breakfast over scrambled or casserole style.

She loves my husband like another grandchild. Probably more, actually, as he possesses the power to fix her computer…

She (and G-pa) ignore their body pains and crawl onto the floor to play with my children, getting into the thick of things.

My G-ma gives and gives, but rarely takes.

She isn’t perfect. She loves to know everything about what everyone is doing at every moment of the day. It can drive a teenager (or adult) slightly crazy.

She hovers at times, wanting to help when no help is required.

Because she loves us.

I created this blog partly for her, because my children are loud and phone time is limited; her hearing is touch and go unless in perfect conditions.

Now she knows what goes on in my life, bridging the distance.

Happy 82nd birthday, G-ma! I hate living so far from you, but I’m glad methods exist so we can still share our lives together. You are wonderful, sharing, and selfless with your love. I have never feared my reception in your home, knowing open arms await no matter if my visit is planned or a random “Hi, I’m out rollerblading!” quick stopover. I cannot wait to see you in a few weeks so we can spend time together and you can play with my children.

We love you!

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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13 Responses to Tales of My G-ma – Wishing Her a Happy 82nd Birthday

  1. kir says:

    That was a gorgeous tribute to your Grandma, how lucky you are to still have her. Happy Birthday to her!!!!!

  2. Katie says:

    Mmmmmm….I love deviled eggs!

  3. Mariah M says:

    This story made me cry. Consider yourself fortunate to have such a loving relationship with your Grandma. I miss mine everyday and I sorely wish I had told her how I felt about her when she was living. She’s gone now and I think about her all the time. I also remember my mother telling me how evil she was when I was a kid. So far from the truth. I love her and miss her and I hate that I had to become an adult to realize it. Enjoy your grandma every day 🙂

    • It is sad the things we often don’t learn until we’re adults – lost in the egocentric childhood.

      I’m sure she knows how you felt, and I’m sad your mother and her had such a strained relationship.

      My Grandma helped raise me especially from about age 6 to 7.5 – when my mother was sick and fighting lymphoma much of the time. I’m glad it gave me all of these memories.

  4. What a fab tribute! I love G-ma too. None of my grandmas were alive when my twins were born. But one G-pa had a very special relationship (and William is indirectly named after him – and William Shakespeare and William Wallace).

    And. Love. Those. Pictures.

    • I can write about my g-ma until I turn blue, but nothing quite conveys the joy of my children with her (or my G-pa) like a photo.

      I lost my paternal grandparents before I was married, but I know they would’ve loved my kids just as much.

  5. educlaytion says:

    Really sweet Kelly. G-mas are the best. I wish I had mine longer but still got plenty of great memories from them.

    • G-mas are awesome. I wish I’d been closer to my paternal grandmother (I lost her about 10 years ago), but they lived in Arkansas while I lived in Iowa in a the days before Skype and Facetime.

      I’m hoping my children can also have excellent relationships with their grandparents in spite of the distance, thanks to technology advances.

  6. Pingback: Happy 83rd, G-ma! | Dances with Chaos

  7. This was so gorgeous . . . made me almost teary-eyed. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful woman.

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