Monday, December 13, 2004

three stories about my grandmother.

When my grandma was engaged to my grandpa, he taught her how to drive. One evening, he told her to drive them home from a carnival or fair or something. It was dark and the road was winding and my grandma was scared. She'd only been driving for a short while and she was afraid she would crash the car. But Grandpa didn't make any sound or say anything, so she figured she was doing a good job. Because, of course, he would say something if she made a big mistake.

She got them out of the frightening winding road area and pulled over to ask how she did. "Gordon? Gordon?" She leaned over and realized that my grandfather was asleep. And then it dawned on her that he had been asleep for the entire drive. "Gordon! Wake up! Do you know how scared I was? We could have both been killed and you were just sleeping away!" "Aw, Molly," he said (my Grandma's name was Lena May, but Grandpa always called her Molly), "I knew you wouldn't kill me."

After they were married, my grandparents had two vehicles; a pickup truck and an old Model T. Both just had starters. Grandpa showed my grandmother how to take off the distributor cap so if she went into town no one could steal the car. My grandfather trained horses and drove there and was gone all day (and sometimes late into the night) and they had 3 young children at the time -- my mother, the baby of the family, and her brother, the next-to-youngest hadn't been born yet. Grandma couldn't take the kids in the pickup truck to visit with her mother or go into town, so she spent many days on the farm, alone with the kids. She hated it.

One morning, when Grandpa had been out late, Grandma got up and went out to the Model T. She took off the distributor cap and put it in her apron pocket. Grandpa got up and went out to leave. He tried to start the car, and it wouldn't start. He got in the truck and left. My grandmother loaded up the kids and went to visit her mother. Neither of them ever mentioned that the car wouldn't start or that there was some problem with it.

My grandparents' house only had a coal stove for heat. The chair my grandma sat in was right under a register near the stove that opened up into the kids' bedroom on the second floor. Grandpa would often bring Grandma a Milky Way candy bar -- often as an apology for staying out late. She would put it on top of the icebox. After the kids were in bed, she'd get her candy bar and sit down in her chair. As she opened the wrapper, the kids could hear the crackling of the paper. They'd call, "Mommy? Do you have a candy bar? Mommy? Can we have bites?" And she'd go upstairs and give each of the 5 kids a bite, leaving not a lot for her. One of my uncles had a habit of bringing Grandma Milky Ways when he came to visit. (All those many years later, when I was spending the night at her apartment, I'd hear her opening the wrapper. "Grandma? Do you have a candy bar? Grandma? Can I have a bite?" I'd call from the bedroom. She'd always give me a bite. It did leave a lot more for her, though, since it was only me.)

At her funeral, my uncle's family's wreath had several Milky Ways attached. And they were put in the casket with her, so she'd have some candy on her final journey -- and not have to share them.

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