I want to tell a little story about my dad’s mom.
My grandma is a strong, vibrant woman who is 85 years old. She married my grandpa young, and had many wonderful years with him, before the asbestos made an appearance in his lungs and took him from her way too soon. I think he was 66 when he died, which was just too soon. He died in 1992, and Grandma has been living alone in her giant Nebraska house for the last twenty years.
Grandma had six boys and one girl, and they all grew into some of the best people I know. They also married some of the best people out there. My family gets together every year (no joke) around Grandma’s birthday and spends a weekend filled with merriment.
She has the best attitude. She lives in Grand Island, Nebraska, a place not known for its winter charms. One winter, she was snowed in for an entire month. That month was December.
We called her on Christmas (she was alone) and asked how she was surviving. “Oh,” she said, “it’s the first Christmas in my whole life that I get to eat whatever I want for dinner tonight. Do you know how great frozen pizza tastes when it’s all you ever wanted in a dinner?”
I remember thinking at the time, wow, if I get even ten percent of her positive attitude, I will be one lucky girl.
She has a really expansive definition of family, which is impressive, given that at her age, she could be a little less inclusive and no one would blame her for it. But if you look at the framed pictures, the ones she puts where she can see them every single day, you see more than just her kid’s kids. A few of her children married people who had kids from a previous marriage, and those pictures are as prominently displayed as those of her own grandkids.
She has a big heart, and loves everyone. She’s also not afraid to tell you what she thinks. She’s one of many women in my life from whom I could have inherited that trait.
One year, when I was visiting, she said, “you know, I have to tell you, when you were 13, I thought you were a brat. I’m glad you’re not a brat anymore.”
I smiled and said thank you.
She only buys what’s on sale, and up until this year, she would spend the better part of three hours driving across town to buy the sale items at each of her favorite grocery stores. Now she sends her two local kids to do the same, and they go for her, every week. She stockpiles food. She has a giant freezer and two regular refrigerators with freezers. Now, who am I to blame her? She couldn’t leave her house for a month! In my house, I’d likely starve if it came to that, since I only stock up for one week at a time.
Grandma grew up in the depression era, and does not waste food, ever.
In fact, the one harsh word I ever heard her say was about one of the women that one of her kids married. Her tone got conspiratorial. “I just don’t like some of the things she does,” she confided. “Did you know that she threw away an entire tomato because of one lousy mold spot? The nerve of that woman!”
This tickled me to no end. This is the kind of gossip my grandma does.
She’s on the list of “Kathleen’s Homemade Christmas” but I don’t usually hear if she got the things I sent or if they got lost in the mail. Once I asked my dad about it. “So, I never heard anything from Grandma, do you think she got my package?”
“Oh! She told me that she hid everything in her bedroom closet so that the kids wouldn’t take her present. I guess that’s your answer,” Dad told me.
It’s grandma who makes me think there is such a thing as a frugal gene. She was born frugal, and she will die frugal. She’s not penniless, but she still, to this day tells you how great of a deal she got on something.
I’d like to think I have a little bit of Grandma in me. Although (don’t tell her this) I too have thrown out a rotten tomato.