Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The G Force

Stephen Covey, I believe, states that when you parent you aren't just raising kids, you are raising grandkids; a profound insight imho. My own Grandparents lived in a time when children were seen and not heard, suffered profound dissapointments, struggled through the Depression, endured hardships and lived without a lot of the comforts that we consider "normal." Yet they lived well and influenced me greatly.

My paternal grandparents were German Brethran. They were simple, hardworking, intelligent, fastidious. There lives were ordered, a little boring, pleasant and good. They farmed mint for Wrigley's gum, various other crops and hogs, which I was terrified of. My grandma was a fastidious housekeeper and cooking was her craft. She was known for miles around and certainly in my mind as cook extrodanaire; homemade egg noodles, mashed potatoes, homegrown corn, and green beans were staples at every supper. 4 kinds of pies, rhubarb, apple, peach, as well as cookies and crumbles were de riguer. There were pickled beets and eggs, thick slabs of fresh tomatoes with a dusting of pepper, fresh apples, popcorn balls, canned peaches, and always fresh, cold well water. Board games as well as croquet were regular extended family events when we visited and grandma always beat everyone by a mile or more. Competition was fostered and encouraged; if there were a world Chineese Checker championship, my family members would be title holders. My Grandpa farmed until well into his 60's and had the strength of a man that had done physical labor all of his life. Hugs were life threatening, though well-intentioned. He followed the financial news and weather like his life depending on it- which it did. No debt was a mantra and while they lived simply, they lived well. From them I learned the value of good cooking, good housekeeping, good living, hard-work and simplicity.

My maternal grandparents married as a legal contract and ended up staying together for over 40 years. My Grandpa was old by the time my sisters and I came along- his only grandkids. He had amazing long white hair, ate the same lunch every day (a small piece of turkey, green beans, peaches and for dessert ice-cream.) He called Grandma "Momma" and had long since retired, while she, 20 years his junior, worked in the accouting office of GTE in a large city. Grandpa was kind and always pulled 1/2 dollars out of our ears but Grandma was the reason to visit. She was always knitting, loved shopping and Mexican coffee and going out to eat, watching movies, good music, plants, animals and especially her grandkids. She was and is at 92, beautiful, full of life and wisdom, quoting Shakespeare and calling us "dears" and "darlings." The kitchen of their home, built by Grandpa years earlier was where everyone gathered to cook breakfast, scoot cats off of our laps, practice knitting and comment passionately on the news (I can still hear Grandpa shouting, "Those damn shanty Irish Catholics" - keep in mind he was one himself) and then go off on a tirad about the corruption that Daley kept alive and well in the Windy City. From them I learned that life is as good as you want it to be, that it is never what you expect but ya gotta roll with it and that filling your life with good things like animals and people and ideas and handi-work enriches it to the point of joy.

I've been blessed. I am grateful for the influence of these people, who have loved and taught me well.

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