The Fish Was Bad

grandma1 001I have been thinking of my Grandma Jahr for the last two days about nonstop.I don’t know why except that it is Lent and it reminded me of a story I tell about her.I want my grandkids to know what kind of person she was.I believe she is my reason for sanity and she was an amazing woman.She wasn’t afraid of anything and I want my grandkids to feel that way about me.She was sensible about most things but sometimes she sent me into orbit with some of her decisions and this is one of the reasons why.

After my Grandpa Jahr died my Grandma’s life changed.They lived a very structured life.She made every meal they ever ate and going out to eat was a rare treat.She now had more time to do things that she never had time to do when she was a farmers wife.I talked to her every day after I got out of work and she started to socialize with her widow friends more.Her best friend was Madeline Menzel and Madeline’s husband had passed away also.I never really liked Madeline much because she always seemed kind of mean but Grandma and her were friends since grade school days.They would go shopping and visiting other widows and I was glad she had someone to spend time with when I was at work.I would hear about their adventures after I got home and it was nothing for my ear to be sore after a talk with Grandma on the phone and this day was no exception.

I think I was home about five minutes when the phone rang and it was Grandma.

“Hi,Dilly, how are you.”

“Fine Grandma,what did you do today?”

“Well,Madeline picked me up and we went to the Big John’s for the fish dinner for lunch.”

My Grandma had a habit of putting the word THE in front of a lot of words.Like she always said cream of the mushroom soup.I loved it when she said stuff like that and I remember smiling when she said the Big John’s.It was a little restaurant in Caro about a half hour away from her house and I thought it was nice they went out to lunch together on a Wednesday.

“Well, that was nice Grandma.”

“No, not really because the fish was bad!”

“What do you mean the fish was bad?”

“The fish was so bad I couldn’t eat it.It was so greasy and it was cold.I wound up bringing it home for the cats and tomorrow when I go out I will give it to them.”

That didn’t surprise me because she would never waste the food.I just knew she was mad because she paid good money for bad fish.She went on—

“We weren’t the only ones there at the Big John’s.I saw Con and Vernita Curry and when Madeline went out to start the car I stopped to talk to them.”

The Curry’s were Grandma’s neighbors and Mrs.Curry did Grandma’s hair.I’m sure she was discussing the bad fish and taking her time doing it.

She went on.”I went out to get in the car and there was Madeline laying on the sidewalk.”

“Oh, my,goodness, was she hurt.”

“Well, no, she was dead.”

“What?”

“She was dead and I didn’t know how I was going to get home.I didn’t know if the cops would let me drive her car or if I could hitch a ride with the Curry’s because they were still in the Big John’s.”

“Grandma I am so sorry that Madeline died.”

“Well,she had a bad heart and I think she had a massive heart attack and it killed her. They took her drivers license away about a year ago because her heart was no good.”

“What in God’s name were you doing riding in the car with her if she was that sick?She could have died when you guys were driving down the road and then where would we be.I can’t believe you Grandma.I can’t have anything happen to you.”

“Well, she looked ok to me and I am alright so quit worrying and the Curry’s gave me a ride home so I didn’t have to drive Madeline’s car.”

I was thinking thank God because you haven’t had a license in twenty years!

My Grandma had to learn a lot of stuff after Grandpa died and she did.I taught her how to balance her checkbook and I helped her figure things out,but she taught me things until the very day she died.She wasn’t afraid of anything not even getting into a car with someone that shouldn’t be driving.I want to be like that for my grandkids.I want them to smile thinking of me like I am right now thinking of Grandma long after she is gone.I hope that they feel blessed to have had me and I hope that I drive them a little crazy too.I am thinking that’s what grandmas are supposed to do.Keep you on your toes.

I can’t end without this.Grandma I love you still and thank you for everything you ever did for me.You were always ready for the challenge even if it was the death of a friend.I think of the lessons you taught me on how to protect myself from hellish stepfathers and where to kick them if they attacked.I remember to keep God foremost in my life and to teach my grandkids like you did me.I still hear your sweet voice and I will never forget it.If mean Madeline made it to where you are I hope you and her are having a good time and that the fish is good.

three 001This is Grandma and Grandpa.My sister Linda on Grandpa’s lap and my sister Lori in Grandma’s arms.That’s me standing in the middle.

Chicken Soup and Robins

babtliz 001I have had a deep seeded fear of birds ever since I can remember.I might as well be honest.I really can’t stand birds.Anybody that uses that against me should be ashamed.Really ashamed.I probably need therapy because of birds.Or in my neck of the world a bird free zone.Or both.Nuff said.

The first story I ever heard about this problem came from my beloved Grandma Jahr.She said we were out in the garden picking strawberries.I was singing hhhmhmhhm so happy and telling her that she could call me her Dilly.(That nickname and plenty of others stem from that to this day) I had my hind end up in the air and she started to throw little clumps of dirt on me.She said I would look around to see what hit me and when I found nothing I would go back to getting the strawberries.The story goes that after a time I got scared and declared,”Grandma,the robbie got me!”And so it began.At the tender age of two I thought a freaken robin flew into me.

As I got older it was my job to go get the eggs from the chicken coop for her while Grandma was making supper.I hated that job and she knew it but she made me face my fears and out I went.A bucket of water and a bucket of feed for the trough was in each of my hands.In that coop was a great big white rooster that knew I was coming.Every time you would walk in the door he would be perched on one of the nests hanging on the wall.From there he would make his attack and come flying at you with his beady eyes glaring and his wings spread.I was petrified and he knew it.That creep did that to me time and time again and in the house I would go bawling.He never did that to us when Grandma went out in the morning and I was with her, just when I gathered the eggs alone in the evening and I don’t know to this day if she really believed me at the time.Grandma loved her birds.Remember Fancy girls?She was a trained black and white hen my Grandma had that would sing on command.

That rooster’s last evening on earth started out the same as always.I opened the door with my two buckets and this time he aimed right for my face and nabbed me.I got a small scratch on the side of my eye and it started to bleed.This time I had proof,a wound and blood.I dropped both buckets and chop and water went everywhere.I high tailed it for the house with my voice in another time zone.People my adrenaline right now is airborne and I am breathing hard.

I came in that house like the coop was on fire bawling at the top of my lungs.He pushed me too far that time and I was never going in there again.I told Grandma what happened.She turned the burners off on the stove and out we went stopping for her little axe in the tool shed by the house.I can still see her in her old house dress with her apron on and her high heels walking that little limping walk of hers. In that coop my brave Grandma charged with her chicken hooker and she nabbed him with me watching in horror behind her.His wings were flapping and he was squawking trying to free himself but I thought too late pal your goose is cooked.Over to the head chopping block Grandma went and off with his head.She told me we would have chicken soup for dinner the next day and we did.Boy,was it good.I am not kidding,or maybe it was extra tasty because of a certain ingredient.Hahahahahah.

I knew Grandma really loved me when she killed that rooster and never knew the real reason for the butchering until she was telling Grandpa about it at our chicken soup feast the next day.Imagine my surprise when Grandpa said it was for the best.His exact words were————

“We can’t have Dilly wasting the chicken feed like that.”

Grandma I Miss You Or Keep Your Hands Where They Belong

grandma 001This is the Grandma of my childhood.I remember her sitting on that step stool and climbing it to get to the cupboards above the stove like it was yesterday.If you look closely on the cupboard there is a radio and a cookie jar that bring back vivid memories.On the floor is one of the many rag rugs she made in the basement on her loom and she has on her apron that she always wore when she cooked.

The radio was on at every meal and every meal was at six,twelve,and six o’clock.The common table prayer before we ate was  first on the agenda and then we listened to a local radio station out of Bad Axe called WLEW.They always  reported the local news and the obituaries and we had to be quiet when that radio was on.If lunch ran a little over sometimes you could hear a few snippets of I Got A Tiger By The Tail sung by Buck Owens but not to often.They weren’t into that kind of stuff.It was all Christian music and the Polkas and if you spent the night on Friday you knew the polkas were on Saturday morning and  Grandma taught more than one of us how to dance that hopping little polka dance on that kitchen floor.EIEIEIO EIEIEIO and around we would go.Grandma with a big smile and me hanging on for dear life.I loved dancing with Grandma and as we got older Linda and I were quite the polka divas at weddings and parties.

That cookie jar never held any cookies.It was mostly for looks because she liked it and was a wedding present.Grandma could tell you almost every wedding present she got and who she got them from.She had a memory like a steel trap and it makes me sick that same memory failed her before she died.I am going to ask when we are reunited why that had to be,because besides her kindness and love to her grandkids her beautiful mind was so wonderful to my sisters and me.

grandmacake 001Besides being a seamstress and quilter she was baker and made many wedding cakes.More than once one of us got in trouble for stealing her rosette flowers she had drying on the little table in the front room of the basement.I could never figure out how she knew because there were so many of them.If you were there when she was making them you could have a sample but not when they were done.Nobody wanted the wrath of Elsie so we tried to be good,but sometimes it just wasn’t possible……

linette 001This little darling got in trouble at grandmas more than once.Grandma wasn’t only a baker,seamstress,and polka instructor she could also grow anything and she loved starting African violets from leaves.Linette as she has mentioned would play with them and Grandma would not like it.I imagine the soft velvet feeling of the leaves conjured up memories of her beloved pudz that she needed for comfort when sucking her thumb.I saw the mess after Linette’s attack on the plants one time and almost had a heart attack because I knew this wouldn’t be pretty.It’s a lucky thing Linette was a darky like Grandma used to call us because she lived to tell about it.

grandma1 001 (2)She loved to have people over and she loved to go visit.This is how I remember her always laughing before the dementia set in.She played cards and games with us and my favorite was cootie.She also taught us donkey that we play with our grandkids today.It was a staple to have her pop up pop corn in that silver pan she used to wash dishes in on the weekend.One side caramel corn with nuts the other side plain and canned grape juice from the basement or if you were really lucky a punch with Seven UP mixed in.I think to this day nothing can taste that delicious.

I hate that my Grandma never got the chance to leave this earth whole in mind and body.After the dementia got so bad when we went to see her in the nursing home she never spoke and it was heartbreaking.She was in a wheel chair in the dining room the last time that I saw her alive just a shell of the vibrant woman she used to be.She couldn’t feed herself anymore and I was trying to get her to take some nourishment.She wouldn’t open her mouth so I asked a nurse to help me.We finally got her to take a few mouthfuls of food and then I gave her a drink of milk through a straw.A little of it dribbled on her chin and I wiped it off with a napkin.It was then to my utter blessed amazement she looked at me and in that sweet sweet little voice said Thank You.Those were the last words I ever heard her say.You know it just figures that even in her last days on earth she would be teaching me something.I hope to be that way for my grandkids.I want them to know that even if they kill my house plants or steal the dog food like Linette and Loretta did when they were little that I will love them.I want my kids and my sisters to know that what ever path they take I will always want to be a part of  their life.I want my nieces and nephews to know I think they are a treasure and my Mom to know that I adore her.Grandma taught me that.Even in her last days she was thankful and she told me thank you.I loved my grandma like my kids and nieces and nephews love mom so I guess things go full circle.It really is a blessing to have somebody care for you that much.I will pull her memory out of the past to make me realize that some blessings go on and on only in memories.That is best maybe because people can take a lot away from you but they can’t take your memories of love and family. So to that Grandma I say………………………….THANK YOU.Your Dilly

Grandma

I love remembering certain things in my life and telling my grandkids about them.Alexis and Peyton can tell you stories about my grandma’s pet chicken Fancy as well as all of my sisters.They love to sit on my lap and listen to me just I like I did with my grandma when I was little.She was and still is one of my greatest treasures.The woman had spunk and determination like no one else.She was a German farm woman to the bone and also as artistic as anyone ever born.There was one thing she just could not tolerate and that was WEEDS.She knew the name of every weed in Michigan and it wasn’t unusual to see her go into a ditch bank to chop out a thistle or the neighbors field before a weed went to seed.There was pusley and pigs weed,smart weed and morning glory,but the worst of them all was quack grass.She hated the stuff and had a personal war with it.We hoed every day in the summer and prayed for rain every night like most kids in a farm home.The only thing that saved us was Grandma.She would bring out Brach’s hard candy that we bought at Woolworths by the pound and water in an old vanilla bottle when we were at the other end of the field and thirsty.She hoed most of the time in a house dress gone bad and high heels she bought at the Immanuel Lutheran Church rummage sale.Oh,And I can’t forget her straw hat with the red stripe around the brim.She was my wonderful Grandma and I was her Dilly.We were there to hoe and no fooling around but did we get some stories.We found out about nosy neighbors(Dorothy)and Grandpa’s not so upstanding family.I really don’t think she liked any of them except a sister that was killed on a railroad track car incident.I am sure she would have a heart attack if she knew some of the things that have happened in our family,but maybe not.She did come over with a horse whip to teach one mean stepfather a lesson.She really in my opinion wasn’t afraid of anything.She could sew and crochet and cook and bake like no one I have ever known.I still miss her and I am so thankful to have had her.I know this sounds foolish as a Christian but sometimes I miss her so much I can’t wait to get to Heaven just to see her again.My sister Loretta shared a poem with me that she wrote about my Grandparents that I hold very dear to me and I get it out every once in a while to read.The memories are so vivid for Loretta that it is something I realize we all have in common,maybe not the greatest childhood,but the greatest memories anybody could want.I hope we all have the chance to bring the same gut wrenching memories to our grandkids and our kids,too.I want them to belly laugh(and that could start an earthquake with me)out loud when they are all alone,I want them to learn about their families delicious secrets,I want them to be able to hum Grandma’s tee hump pee dump song,but most of all I want them to know that I loved them all with every fiber in me. Grandma would have too.