We lived in Lima, Ohio during my high school years. One of my memories from those years is the time my 95-year-old great-grandmother visited us.
Granny lived in Eldorado, Oklahoma. (She was the 1918 “Mama” in the story I told about Oklahoma.) Mother had invited her to come see us, but we didn’t really expect her to. The trip was over 1,000 miles, and Granny was very old. And blind. But one day, in the fall of 1983, Mother wrote a letter to her parents. She said:
Dear Mother and Daddy,
Wow, are we excited. A letter from Aunt Thelma today said Granny has decided to come see us. She didn’t say how soon or how long she would stay. But before cold weather. Maybe she should say before bad weather because we are having some pretty cool weather.
And sure enough, Granny came all by herself. I expect the airlines were as helpful with the elderly then as they are now, because she didn’t have a bit of trouble making the trip. She stayed a month and seemed to have a good time at our house.
Granny liked to piece quilts even though she was legally blind. (Apparently she could see light and dark, and movement, but that’s about it.) Mother cut out quilt squares for her from polyester double-knit fabric leftover from the 1970s. Double-knit may be the ugliest fabric ever, but one thing about it, it’s sturdy. That made it perfect for Granny’s quilts. She could hold the fabric together by feel and hand-stitch it without seeing it.
Each day when we got home from school, one of us would thread needles for Granny– enough to keep her busy the next day while we were at school. She had a foam roll that we would wrap the thread around and stick the needle in, so when she got to the end of the thread on one needle she could easily get another one.
We would also read to her in the evenings. I remember reading Janette Oke’s Seasons of the Heart series to her. She enjoyed the story and picked up on more details about it than I did. I had a tendency to read fast, so she would tell me to “Slow down a little bit.”
When she needed a break from quilt-piecing she would fold laundry. She wanted to stay busy and be helpful. Look at how neatly she folded the towels!
One night we had mashed potatoes as a side-dish for supper. Granny complimented Mother on how good the mashed potatoes were. Mother told her they were just instant potatoes. “Instant potatoes? I’ve never heard of such at thing!” So Mother explained about potato flakes. Granny was so impressed. “I’ll have to remember to tell the girls about them.” (The “girls” were her daughters, my Granddaddy’s sisters.)
Granny had a pet parakeet. The “girls” took care of him for her while she was at our house, but she would tell us stories about him. His name was Perky, and Granny had taught him to talk. We were told (by others) that Perky’s voice sounded just like Granny’s.
Granny was a devout Nazarene. She sold the quilts she made and donated the money to the missionaries. Or maybe she sent the quilts themselves to the missionaries. I can’t remember for sure.
She taught Perky to say, “Perky’s a good little Nazarene.” She said the pastor came to see her and she got Perky to say it for him. He said, “No, he’s not. He doesn’t pay his tithes!” We thought that was funny.
Granny made a total of four quilt tops during the month she spent with us. Each of us girls got one. I think Mother paid her so she would have her offering to give to the missionaries. Even at the time I thought mine was about the ugliest quilt I’d ever seen, but I did treasure it simply because Granny made it for me. And yes, I still have it.
Granny lived to be 101. She came to see us another time later after we had moved to Missouri. I was privileged to spend time with her and listen to her stories of her life and heritage.
I graduated from high school in Ohio… and that’s also where Lyle and I met. You can read that story here.