Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.

Anyone Remember that Frosted Mug of Root Beer?

Before McDonalds, before Taco Bell, before Subway there was A&W.

Growing up my family did not eat out too often.  For one thing, our budget did not allow for such expenses but also there were not many fast-food chains like we have now.

When we had the occasional treat, it was fun to go to the local A&W drive in.  There was no drive through lane to order the food and go and no inside seating.  My dad just drove up to the restaurant, a young girl would come to the car, take our order and return with everything on a tray which was attached to the car window.

Dad would then pass the food back to me and my siblings and we would sit in the car with the windows all down and enjoy our treat.

I always ordered the coney hot dog.  But the best thing about the meal was the root beer served in the big frosted glass mugs.

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It has been years since I saw an A&W drive in.  Yesterday we were driving through the country when we spotted the A&W sign and quickly pulled in for a meal.

Sitting in the car eating a coney cheese dog with lots of mustard and cheese and trying not to get the food all over me, what great memories I had.

And the root beer was wonderful!  You can buy A&W root beer in the stores now but it is not the same as the root beer from the tap in the big frosted mugs.

Oh what a treat!

The store had a sign announcing that A&W is now 100 years old.  Checking it out I discovered the founder Roy Allen set up a stand to sell mugs of his root beer for a nickel  during a homecoming parade for World War I veterans in 1919.  A few years later, in 1922, he formed a partnership with one of his employees, Frank Wright, and thus they came up with the name A&W.

From Lodi, California it quickly spread across the country.  At its peak it had over 2000 stores.  Today it is down to just 600 stores, but the owners of the franchisee have plans to begin expanding again.

The CEO of the franchisee, Kevin Bazner says:

“It really amazes me when I travel—and I am always wearing a logo pin or gear—at every airport, hotel, and restaurant, when I meet people, there are so many stories out there that include fond memories of an A&W restaurant,” he says. Whether it’s stopping at one during a visit to grandparents’ or as a toddler with their parents, “the memories are very strong.”

Yes, I agree.  What memories I had yesterday sitting in my car with a coney cheese dog and a mug of root beer!

Gotta find another A&W closer to home so I can enjoy that root beer again!

The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99

Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!

 

 

 

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

The Call We Didn’t Want – Can’t Forget!

It has been four years since we got that call – but the memory is still fresh in our minds.

After that phone call I stopped blogging for several months.  But finally, I realized that is not what Keith would have wanted.  Today – we still remember not just that terrible phone call – but we recall the memories we have.

For my husband the memories are multiple.  Keith was his first born.  Named Paul Keith he was known to all but the family as Paul – but to us he was Keith.

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Paul’s oldest son, Paul Keith Lane with his sister, Loretta

I did not meet Keith until a few months after I married his father.  Keith was 24 at that time.   Paul’s daughter, Loretta, was very ill and in the hospital.  Paul had flown down immediately to be with her.  I waited until our son, Will, could get home from college so we could fly down together.  At the Dallas airport I asked them to page Paul Lane to meet us at the main terminal.  I was quite surprised when Keith walked up and said “I’m Paul Lane.”  What a way to meet your step-son.

But step-son is not a word I like when talking of Keith.  I came to love him as my own and I’ll never forget the day he asked if he could call me “Mom.”  Memories of all the times he came to visit and the close relationship we were able to build are mine to treasure forever..  He loved to cook and when he would visit he always made the best potato salad in the world.

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We had a red bud tree planted near his grave in his memory.

 

Here is what I wrote when I began blogging again.

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Unexpected, Unwanted Call

I last posted on my blog in April. While we were on vacation, we got that unwanted, unexpected phone call in the night. A police officer called to tell us that our son had been found dead in his apartment. While we knew he was not in good health (a disabled veteran) and would probably not live to be an old man, we still did not expect to be planning his funeral. As my husband sadly said, “No one should bury their own child.” Yet, we know that many do – some burying their children at a much younger age than our son.

I stopped blogging

At times of great grief, your world seems to come to a halt. My husband and I are great Scrabble nuts as I shared before in

Confessionns of a Scrabble Addict  (https://barblaneblog.com/2015/02/22/confessions-of-a-scrabble-addict/) .

But suddenly we no longer wanted to play. It was as if continuing with our favorite game was somehow to make his death seem unimportant. Every time I sat down to blog, I could not decide on a subject. Should I continue to write about the silly, every-day part of my life. How could I do that when I’m supposed to be grieving? Should I continue to write on more serious subjects. I just did not have the heart for that. So – I stopped blogging.

But the world does NOT stop turning. 

But, even if we would like it to, the world does not stop turning.  Life goes on – and that is a good thing.  While we will always miss and grieve the loss of our son, we are so blessed with other children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We do no service to his memory to stop loving life.

Let the games begin – the blogging continue

So – tonight we are going to play a game of Scrabble and I am returning to my writing.

 

Anyone Remember the Icebox?

Long before electricity came to my grandmother’s house she had an icebox.  This was a wooden box usually lined with straw or sawdust that sat in the kitchen or pantry.  The ice man would come around with a 25 to 50 pound block of ice.

My mother grew up with the ice box and even after she got a refrigerator, she referred to it as the ice box.  So that is what I called it.

Until one day my daughters suggested I needed to come into the modern world and call the appliance by its correct name – refrigerator.

As a pastor’s wife I was supervising a church meal and asked a young girl if she would get the salad out of the ice box.  A few minutes later one of my daughters came to me laughing.  The young girl had come to her and said, “Your mother asked me to get the salad out of the ice box.  What is she talking about?”

It took me awhile, but I finally learned to say “refrigerator” not “ice box.”

Anyone remember the ice box?