“Well Granny,” asks Uncle Jim, “after 94 years, what have you learned?”
“It’s hard work to get to be 94 years old.”
Happy Birthday Granny!
You make all that hard work look good.
My cousin taught Ivy and I how to make deer hunter candy this weekend.
Only handed out to deer hunters during the gun season, the recipe is simple: equal parts of four ingredients, covered in chocolate, cut into slices and wrapped in wax paper.
We made the traditional treat together laughing and snitching bits as we did so and then, of course, we had to sample the final product. We wouldn’t want to give all those cold hunters a sub-par product.
I ate a few pieces but I still remember Grandma telling me I wasn’t to take any candy, it was only for the hunters. She didn’t reprimand often and her corrections stuck. I still had a twinge of guilt when popping a piece into my mouth and it came with memories of Grandma’s scolding so vivid I could taste them on my tongue.
Some people scoff at tradition but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who tasted memories when we handed out that peanut butter treat.
I don’t remember wanting to be a writer as a kid. No keeping dairies, at least not for more than a day or two, or writing stories or anything else that required spelling.
But today my cousin and I spent hours going through old photo albums and letters from my grandparents house and there was a little story I wrote to them.
I feel that in defense of my spelling it’s important to note that Grandma taught me Finnish words out of a Richard Scary book. Hevonen is the Finnish word for horse and, while google translate doesn’t think cowpoy is Finnish for cowboy, I clearly did. The only word I actually spelled wrong was hevonen and that’s far better than I’ve done so far on this post tonight. As far as my formatting, that was clearly done by typewriter and I’m not sure I ever figured out how that worked.
Maybe I have always liked telling stories. I’ve forgotten a lot in the last 38 years, (Like what year my brother was married and, apparently, how to spell married). I could have forgotten that too. It’s completely possible. And thank all that is good and true in this world for word processors and spell check.
Some times, when days are spent in the hospital ( Granny is recovering well from an unexpected surgery.) and nights are spent fixing plumbing (We have hot water again, even if new things are leaking and lets not even talk about the washing machine…) it’s hard to stop and find the beauty in the day.
But it’s always there, you just have to remember to breathe and look for it.
Gramps died last November. In his final weeks, with a terminal cancer diagnosis running him down, I heard him respond to every person who visited or called on the phone that tried to express their grief and concern for him with a single phrase.
“I have no regrets and I’m not afraid.”
I could hear his words echo in my head on Saturday morning as we gathered outside the same church he was married in to bury his remains in the family plot. Our family dug the hole ourselves, as was his wishes, we sang the doxology and afterwards we listened to Granny’s stories about their wedding and Christmas pageants in the church they both grew up in. As we left the kids rang the church bells. I watched my nephew leave the ground holding on to the rope, kicking his legs all about, trying to ring that big bell, laughing through the tears as I remembered all the times Gramps had gotten my brother in just the same predicament.
Then we went home to the farm he lived on his entire life for a picnic lunch, a rousing game of baseball with the kids, (the kind that would have found him on the pitcher’s mound for sure) and an afternoon of fishing off the pier. Because he was a farmer who knew when to work and when to play too.
I can’t think of a more fitting way for the family to say one last goodbye to a remarkable man who lived a life that allowed him to look everyone in the eye at the end of it and say, with a boy scout’s honor…
“I have no regrets and I’m not afraid.”
Last night John shopped and hauled and arranged so that today three special ladies could join me for iced tea and strawberry shortcake under the blooming apple trees.
We ate and laughed, bird watched and bee watched (that’s just like birding but with bees), told stories and I pretended there wasn’t anything else more pressing that needed doing for a few hours.
Because you know what?