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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tribute

On July 26, 1906, a baby girl named Elizabeth, who would become one of the most important people in my life, was born in Saint Joseph's Hospital in Denver, Colorado. When she was just twenty-two months old her mother, who had been pregnant with twins, died of pregnancy/childbirth related problems, along with her two babies. Her father, John, was truly devoted to his wife and never remarried. So Bessie, as she was nicknamed, grew up in a single-parent home, and she and her father were truly devoted to each other.

In November of 1923, at just past seventeen years of age, she ran off and married Hiram, the true love of her life. They had four babies, but unfortunately the first was born dead. Surprisingly enough, even though she was born in a hospital, she had all of her babies at home. Gram was a small woman; although she claimed to be five feet tall, she eventually confessed to me that she was only four feet, eleven inches, but five feet sounded so much taller! Gram had two little girl toddlers when she was pregnant with her last child, the son Harold whom I mentioned in the post "The OMG Road." 

Gram's husband was a motion-picture projectionist, so he worked in the evenings. When Gram was pregnant with Harold, she told me, she was so large by her sixth month that she had to have her legs wrapped in elastic bandages from hip to toe. Since that made her unable to get up from a chair and she had two girls to look after, she would spend the evening leaning against the kitchen counter so that she would be able to take care of her girls. When it was time for Harold to be born, she went into labor on a Friday. And labored, and labored. Her doctor, Doctor Purcell, would come and check on her, and tell her to lift the bed when she felt a contraction. Harold finally showed up on the following Wednesday and weighed over twelve pounds! Since her water broke five days earlier, it nearly killed them both. 

When she woke up the next morning, her mother-in-law had put a phone book next to her bed, opened to funeral homes! I think that gave her the strength to survive. The kids all ended up getting terribly sick during the next couple of years, including pneumonia as a result of Depression-era dust storms. This resulted in Gram becoming agoraphobic, something that she worked very hard to conquer.

When Gram's kids were all grown up and had all of their kids, Gram became a widow. After thirty-eight years of marriage, Hiram was gone. She was a widow for over thirty-five years, and I don't think she ever looked at another man. She told me once that when he was alive, her first thought each morning was what she could do to make his breakfast special. Maybe she'd cut his toast a special way or something, just a little gesture of love. She confessed that even thirty-odd years after his passing, she still woke up each morning with her first thought being what to do for his breakfast. Then the realization would hit that he was not there, and she would go on with her day. I wept when she told me this. It was, and still is, one of the most beautiful examples of enduring love that I have ever heard.

This lovely lady, whose children were all raised, and who had grandkids of her own, allowed two Hungarian girls from Chicago into her home and her heart. Even though we were not related, she was like a mother to me, and I will be forever grateful for all of the things I learned from her. Ours was a very unique relationship. We could finish each others' sentences, laugh ourselves silly, and have long chats before bedtime, which we called solving the problems of the world. We could also get so mad at each other! I guess that just confirms that she was very much like a mother to me.

We lost Gram in the spring of 1997, and there are still times that I miss her. But I can laugh or cry about things we went through together, and treasure my memories of the years we had together. She helped form me into the person I am. I still feel her presence in my life, and often find myself using one of her many delightful expressions. I will finish off with a story she told me about her father. She told me that her father liked just about everyone, but every so often he would find someone that was the exception. He once told her that he was talking to someone that he thought was pretty stupid, so he told the man, "You know, you remind me of someone I knew once. He rode his donkey into town and tied it up at a hitching post. Then he went to the feed store and got a feedbag for the donkey. When he came out, instead of putting the feedbag on the donkey, he threw it in a hole in the street. He was so stupid, he didn't know his @$$ from a hole in the ground!"

Goodnight, Grammie, I love you!