It's been terribly rainy here the past few weeks. Yes, weeks. It's not even the rainy season. When it rains, and you're stuck inside with no satellite tv, and a broke down internet modem you have plenty of time to reminisce. And reminisce I did.
Gramma Alice isn't mine by blood, or even by birth. But she's mine none-the-less. She passed away 19 years ago, when I was 17 years old. It was November, and cold, and I remember exactly what I wore. How cold my toes were in my black patent heels, exposed legs and teal green sweater dress. And how my heart broke.
She's always been there. In my life. I don't have a moment in time when she wasn't present. She came to be our Gramma Alice because God, and my father's urge to farm, found us for eachother. Alice Elsie Bruckner Hook. She loved her husband, Lester, who passed shortly after I was born, she loved God, without fear, and she loved us. My parents and brothers.
When I was about 2 or 3 my father approached Gramma about purchasing her farm. It's where he wanted us to grow. Along with the crops and the pigs and our cousins and our aunts and uncles. They settled on a deal that would allow Gramma Alice to own her piece of land, and stay in her home, until she was ready to leave. What a wonderful gift we were given.
Gramma Alice was an only child, who lost her parents and her husband, and wasn't blessed with the gift of a child herself. That didn't stop her from loving. I sincerely think she loved everyone. Especially children and animals.
Eventually my parents, with help of family and friends, built us a home, a few feet from Gramma's house. You could literally look out our windows into her windows. Yet we all had privacy. It was nice to be able to check on her, to know she was okay, even without leaving the house on a cold winter night.
Gramma came to dinner often. Born with one leg shorter than the other, about 5 nights a week either my brothers or I would go over to walk with her to our house for dinner. She sat opposite Dad at the other end of the table. Strategically placed as not to miss a moment of Wheel of Fortune. I do believe that the coming of Christ may have been the only thing to tear her away from Wheel of Fortune. Ha! She was a character.
My mom would often tell me that I was like Gramma in many ways. She's right. I am. Gramma was a messy, messy cook, and a relaxed housekeeper. She preferred to spend her time making her crafts, tending to her pets- house mice (shudder), and spending time with us. For the record mice are banished from my home in any form, and I tend to clean my toilet before a sledge hammer is needed, but we're alike in that I'm a horribly messy cook. We're both a little stubborn, a little too round, and don't know the joy of having a child of our own. But we love. And we're happy.
I know there may have been times that she really just wanted her peace and quiet. Yet she never turned us away. Her home was our home, and we were always welcome. I'd spend hours playing in the upstairs bedroom. Playing dress up in dresses that had not been worn by Gramma in years. We played an out of tune piano until I'm sure she thought her ears would bleed. We'd play I Spy for hours searching for bearded walnut shells, silky spider webs and a long forgotten calendar amongst her walls and shelves of treasures.
Gramma Alice was a hoarder long before there was a television show about it. We'd create crafts from the boxes and boxes of saved greeting cards, multi-colored remnants of candles, googly eyes, pipecleaners and all kinds of recycled things. Much to my mom's dismay she'd toss anything and everything in the garden in front of her house. Egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, left over pieces of sandwiches. Lots of things for our dogs to bring home.
She loved to make the trips to the barn to talk to the sows, play with the babies and even help feed them. She loved when Kyle, my younger brother, would bring his horse, Passion, to her steps to see her. She'd bring out treats for Passion. And Kyle.
Halloween meant popcorn balls, Christmas brought rosettes by the dozen. Fried in the freshest of lard, dusted with pristine powdered sugar. And so, so yummy. Occasionally I'd happen over at lunch time and end up with a plate of liver and onions. Still not my favorite meal. But I thoroughly enjoyed fresh fried parsnips, dredged in flour and fried in butter to golden perfection. Mmmmmm.
Upon her illness and eventual passing, I just tried to block life without her. She was always supportive, it didn't matter the course. Mud pies, frog collections (that she'd mysteriously set free), dress up, dancing to Little Jimmy Dickens Out Behind the Barn on the black, white and gray shag. I hope we brought as much joy to her life as she did to ours. Ah...memories...