Mabel Elizabeth Graden was born on August 4, 1914. It’s seems funny to write her name out like that – to me she was always Grandma. She’s been gone now for a dozen years and I still miss her. She was dearly loved by my Grandpa – he was constantly either praising her or teasing her. There were certain things that she made that simply can’t be replicated, like Grandma Goody Beans (white beans oozing with butter and brown sugar) and yeast rolls. Many of us in the family have tried and come close to making those beans, but it’s just not the same. Grandma never used a recipe, she just put in a little of this and a little of that. Every day she wore an apron – to this day when I see one, I think of her.
It couldn’t have been easy to be married to a farmer and raise six children. Work on a farm is never done – every day there are animals to feed and chores to do and there are no exotic vacations. There was a garden that had to be planted and tended along with all the other crops, not to mention all the regular housework to be done. Meals served to farmers working in the field were hearty and took time to prepare – there were no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the menu at the farm.
Since we lived right across the street, I saw my Grandma a lot. We would drive over after supper to get milk and would stop by the house for a visit before going out to the barn. Grandma knew what was happening with all the kids and grandkids – we weren’t the only ones who stopped by regularly. Her house smelled wonderful, like bacon or cinnamon or whatever she’d prepared for my Grandpa to eat for supper. She was always interested in what was going on with each of us and was the hub of our extended family.
Grandma was also a bit of a worrier – I suppose it would be hard not to be since so much of farming life depends on the weather conditions and the health of the livestock. She would sometimes chastise her kids or one of us grandkids if we got out of line. Since I was always a good girl, I had never been on the receiving end of any harsh words.
When I was ten, my cousins and I went to the farm while my Mom went off on an errand. While we brought Barbie dolls to play with, it sounded like a lot more fun to go out to the barn and build forts in the hayloft. What I didn’t realize was that there were openings in the floor to throw the bales of hay down to the cows. One minute I was arranging the walls of my hay condominium and the next minute I was flat on my back next to the manger, at least ten feet below. The fall knocked the wind out of me and as I lay there, I wondered how badly I’d been injured. I’m not gonna lie, once I got my breath back, I screamed and my uncles came running. They carried me to the house while I sniffled. I may have muttered that I thought I might have some paralysis – I’d hit my hand pretty hard in the fall and it felt numb and tingly all at the same time. In light of all my trauma, I was expecting my sweet Grandma to be sympathetic to my plight. What happened next was completely unexpected – she yelled at me and asked me why I hadn’t just stayed in the house with my cousin and played with our Barbies. I was crushed – I’d never gotten on Grandma’s bad side before and that hurt every bit as much as the bruise that was blossoming on my left posterior region. Today I know that I probably scared her half to death – my fall could have certainly been much worse than a bruised tushy.
My family eventually moved away from my home town and I didn’t get to see my Grandma as often. When I got engaged, my fiance and I took a trip to the farm so he could meet her and my Grandpa. The visit went great until my fiance and I were back in the car. He was pretty angry as he said, “Why didn’t you tell me your Grandma only had one arm?!” “I forgot.” “You forgot? How could you forget a thing like that? You should have told me.” But you see, I never saw her that way. Grandma did everything anyone else did and it was never a thing. That’s how it is with families and unconditional love. That love is blind to what the rest of the world sees. It’s a beautiful thing.
If you still have your Grandma, you should call her and tell her how much you love her. Like right now. If you’ve lost your Grandma, I hope this post reminds you of special times you had together. Can’t wait to see you again, Grandma!
Celebrating 45 Years Together