Friday, July 5, 2013

Dirty Feet and Clean Dentures: My Continuing Adventures with Grandma Jo

As published in the September 2013 issues of the central PA Hibu publications.

She passed away July 27, 2013 before it could be published. 

7AM. She arrives wearing big fluffy slippers.  But they're only temporary.  Once she gets inside and gets settled in, they'll come off because she would rather be in bare feet.  I'm just like her.  When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother, the Old Bat as I call her with great affection, telling me that she wanted to be buried in her nightgown with her shoeless feet sticking out.   I spent a lot of time with her as a kid, and now, she spends Tuesdays and Thursdays at my house.   As a kid, our evening routine was that of the early-to-bed-early -to-rise-for-fifty-years factory worker: supper, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, bed, then up at 4:30 the next morning to clean the house before breakfast, which was typically Lucky Charms with canned milk.  Sweep the beetles off the car port, make a cake, sit on the porch and swat wasps for the rest of the day. She was the original cook, the one who taught me about her Depression era favorites, like egg custard pie.   When we made one a few weeks ago, she worried that she didn't remember how until I reminded her that she gave me her recipe card a few years ago ("Write it down for me before you forget it, you old bat" were my exact words, as I recall). At 86, her brain and body are wearing down, but when I set the pie ingredients down in front of her, she knew what to do with them.  She crimped the edges of the pie crust and explained to me that when her mother made pie, crimping the crust was always her job.  These days I have to turn the pan for her because she can't see, but her fingers know the old familiar routine.  We put it together and into the oven, and while it bakes to a delicious golden brown and fills my kitchen with the smell of warm and spicy nutmeg, she tells me stories of growing up in Perry County with her 10 brothers and sisters.  Her daddy grew wild hops, and he would make his own beer, wine, and 'shine at home.  The railroad workers were always enthusiastic customers, and it kept everyone fed when times were tough, which was almost always.  Occasionally, she and her sister would 'go fishing', but instead swipe a jug and float it between the rocks to get it cold.  "We got a whippin' when we got caught, but we would always tell him, 'Daddy, if you wouldn't make it, we wouldn't drink it'".  In the afternoon, she wants nothing more than to sit on the porch, and that's exactly what she and her little dog do.  That is what she's always done. While she enjoys the sound of the birds and the warm sunshine on her wrinkly legs, I water the garden, pull weeds, maybe grab some lettuce to incorporate into the meal I'll send home with her in the evening.  Without shoes, of course.  At least once during the course of a day, she tells me, "Oh Erin, don't get old".  Happens to the best of us, you old bat. She can't yodel anymore, and I regret having never asked for my lesson.  She can't put my hair in rag curls any longer. But there are some things you're never too old for.   A cup of coffee and a piece of pie on the porch is one of them.  She and I have done a lot of talking over the years, so we can afford to sit quietly with our feet up for a while enjoying the present, even when memories of the past elude us.  That pie's good.   What the heck, let's have another piece.  You only live once, right?                                                         

No comments:

Post a Comment