I usually get my inspiration for posts from pictures that I have or things I would like to take pictures of to share. This picture is one of my grandparents’ wedding. I want to give you a little background story of my grandparents, how they met and a bit about their lives. This is not going to be a rant about my OCD or how difficult my life sometimes is. This is somewhat of an ode to the amazing people in this world who never win an award, who aren’t actors in films or famous politicians, but are normal, everyday people who do great things and should be recognized.
Orville and Rosemary (my grandparents) met just prior to the Korean War and they pretty much knew they wanted to get married, but my grandfather was drafted and had to leave the country. Luckily, my grandfather was sent to officer school and was able to train other soldiers at a training camp in Germany, so he never actually stepped foot on Korean soil. During this time, my grandparents wrote one another overseas and on the very rare occasion, my grandfather made a very short and very expensive transatlantic phone call to the US to talk to his family and to Rosemary. When he came back, it wasn’t long before they finally said “I do.”
Living in a small, rural community also meant that they were poor for quite some time. I know bits and pieces about their early married life, but I would feel foolish to put them together incorrectly, so I’m just going to leave those details out. I remember one thing specifically, though. My grandmother had 7 children, 6 boys and 1 girl. Throughout the duration of all 7 pregnancies, she wore the same red winter coat. Evidence of this can be found in several family photos. She wanted to give her kids all she could and never spent a dime on herself, even when they were able to afford much more. This is the kind of woman my grandmother was; truly selfless.
I only knew my grandfather as a farmer, but I knew he had another profession before that and I want to say it had something to do with logging, but I’m not certain. Anyway, the point of that is, my grandparents build a quaint little farmstead in rural Indiana, the place I remember fondly as a child. My dad built a house on an adjacent property to my grandparents, which was only about 100 yards away, so I was over at their house quite often. My grandmother was the BEST cook and I’m not just being biased. She made the best German-American food I’ve ever eaten or ever will eat.
My parents got divorced when I was 7 I think, but I actually don’t know my exact age! How’s that possible? I was young and I guess I didn’t even know how old I was Throughout my childhood and through adolescence, my brother, sister, and I would go back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. I can honestly say that it wasn’t easy and sometimes it was uncomfortable, but really they did a great job of keeping their quarrels out of our sight and they never fought or yelled in front of us. I appreciate that now looking back. Even though it was a divorce, things could have been much worse.
On the days we went to dad’s house, we usually hopped off the bus at the corner to my grandmother’s house and went there instead. Dad was usually working in the fields or with the animals, so it was always funner to go to grandma’s. Plus, she always had food ready! I know that she wanted to make everything good in our lives because of the divorce and I know that out of the 22 grandchildren, us 3 were the most special to her. Now, she would never have admitted this, but I know that it was true. There were times that she would tell us things that I know she could never or would never say to any of the other grandchildren. The funniest thing I remember her ever saying, which was so out of character for her, happened when a helicopter was flying over our farm. I’m not sure why it was there, but it was and it was there for some time. My grandmother said the funniest thing I have ever heard her say at that moment, “Gosh, I hope they don’t fly over that back pasture and see my marijuana crop!” She was our closest, loving friend and grandmother and I have so many fond memories of her. That’s why, even five years later, I have trouble bringing up her name without tearing up.
It was five years ago, and I can hardly believe it was really that long ago already, that my grandmother passed away. Two years prior when I was fifteen I think, she was diagnosed with uteran cancer. I remember being at her house when she told me. My sister and I came over to work on my quilt and my head was down looking at the needle as it passed up and down through the thick batting and fabric. Grandma was standing in the doorway and she calmly said, “Well girls, I went to the doctor today and I found out I have cancer.” At that moment, it felt like someone punched my stomach and took the breath out of me. I wanted to burst out crying and run to her and hug her, but instead I kept my head bent down, the tears falling on the quilt.
We thought that after bout of chemotherapy and surgery and a year and a half of remission from the uteran cancer that maybe she had beat it, but it came back with a vengeance in her liver. She didn’t live long after it hit her liver, maybe a month or six weeks. She passed away on July 27, 2007, when I was 17. I was at her side when she passed, holding her hand until it became heavy, cold, and lifeless. Dying is not how you imagine it. It’s not like in the movies when a person’s eyes just close and that’s the end. Nope. I wish it were like that. She held on for a good hour or more, with not enough energy to open her eyes or talk, but just enough to keep gasping for breath. We wanted her to go so badly, just so that the pain would stop, but she didn’t want to. The day before when she was still conscious, she told me, “We had some fun times girls, didn’t we? I’m not ready to go.” At 71, I didn’t feel like she was ready either. She was too young in my eyes and being nearly a saint, she didn’t deserve to die the way she did. The only solace I really have in her passing was the fact that her entire close family was there at her side. There was so much love in that room.
I miss her so much, every day really. It seems like not even one day goes by that I don’t think about her. I keep her wedding photo and a photo of her with us the day before she passed, skin yellowed from jaundice, hanging up in my home. Even though some memories are painful, they don’t deserve to be pushed away. Because of my grandmother, I don’t regret a single moment of my life. She made me see how precious life is and how we should never take all the good things we have in life for granted.
Never live with regrets.