Eighteen Years and I Can Still Hear Her Voice…
“Full moon tonight.”
“What the hell do you know? Deal the cards.”
Every now and again my grandparents would babysit for my brother and I. This was the conversation we would hear. We were never bored when listening in on their card games. We learned new words, how to properly use them in a sentence and many random weather facts.
Frances, my maternal grandmother, died eighteen years ago this month. Reliving evenings spent at her house still makes me smile. In fact, these evenings are always topics of conversations when I get together with my brother and cousins. Frances and Christian, my grandfather, would have Coletta, Clara or Pete and Gertie over for cards. They would eat, drink, play and argue. I loved it. These were great people.
Growing up, my mom’s parents lived about three houses away. We would stop there on our way home from school and share all our newly acquired knowledge. They were always so impressed. And, if we were really lucky, my grandfather would take out his dentures.
Grandma had only an 8th grade education, as she grew up on a farm and was needed at home. Despite her limited education, she read the newspaper every day and was up on all current events. She would often read aloud and I learned a few new words from her. Like “Shiite”, for example. “Those Shiites are at it again,” she would say, when reading the news from Beirut, though she was not aware of the proper pronunciation, (neither Grandma or I mean any offense to the Shiite people). The first time I shared this news with my parents, I almost had my mouth washed out. I think you get the idea.
Then there was what came to be known as “The Peach Cobbler Incident”. A simple mistake had been made on her chart at the home and she was being denied dessert. Not diabetic, or as she put it, “I ain’t got that disease”, (and no offense intended to diabetics anywhere), Frances because increasingly frustrated with the lack of sweets coming in her direction. So she did what any reasonable woman would do. She wheeled herself down to the nurses station and called each of her children, demanding peach cobbler. My mother, being closest and the nurse, went down to the home and got everything straightened out. Pleased, Frances asked for a second piece of cobbler that night just to make a point. You did not mess with Frances.
She was always sharp, right up until her passing, though she could never get our names right the first time she called for us. Give the woman a break, she had seven children, 42 grandchildren and I-have-no-idea how many great-grandchildren. In any case, in the fall of 1993 JB and I became engaged. We went to see her at the home and talk about wedding plans. She pulled JB aside. “You! You’re the one marrying my granddaughter?” I know she knew his name, but really, she was old and had a lot of visitors, so did not bother to address him with his name. (see above, don’t mess with her)
“Yes, Grandma. I am marrying Erika.”
“You Catholic?” Frances was a devout Catholic. Another note about when she would babysit us – she would pray the rosary at the top of her lungs, so the Pope himself would hear her (while doing whatever it is they do) in the Vatican across the ocean, in the hopes that we would become Catholic someday.
“Yes, Grandma, I was raised Catholic.” JB had been warned this question would be coming and was coached on a response.
“Good. Will you have Catholic babies?” oh boy. She went on to explain to JB (in detail) how she became a mother, my grandfather’s virility, yadda yadda. Priceless. Sadly, she was not physically present at our wedding.
I can’t help but believe that somewhere in heaven she is pleased that through a series of twists and turns, my kids now attend a Catholic school. I imagine her giving the Good Lord a big fist bump and telling my grandfather that she knew it would happen someday, because of her praying the rosary.