I had very special grandmas. When I was growing up, we lived 3 hours away from them, so any time we got to spend with them was golden. Luckily, my parents would send my brother, sister, and I to the farm every summer. From as soon as school got out to just before school started again, we lived on the farm. We played with our cousins almost every day, did chores, and generally hung out. Mom and Dad came up occasionally, but most of the time, it was just us and our grandparents.
My Grandma Fitzgerald (aka Fuzz) was a wonderful lady to know. She lived in town, but we got to spend the night with her off and on throughout the course of the summer, usually on Saturday so we could go to church with her. She was funny, loving, and spiritual. She and Grandpa had 7 kids – the youngest was a teenager when I was born. After Grandpa died, she was the glue that held the family together. She worked for a number of years after Grandpa died, so we couldn’t stay with her all the time. There are a few memories I treasure about those times I spent with her:
- Going to the grocery store, Starbuck’s diner, eating popcorn for supper and watching TV.
- Getting to use Mr. Bubble Bubble Bath when I spent the night (that wasn’t allowed at home).
- Grandma’s voice and organ playing (there are still songs that make me think of her).
- Her sense of humor (she once walked chicken legs walk down the table, telling a story the whole way).
- Holy Saturday Mass (we walked to church one year and it was a beautiful service).
We lost her several years ago to Alzheimer’s, which has to be the worst disease out there.
My Grandma Sloniger was truly a special lady. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her, or ask myself whatshe would do. She was so kind to everyone, and so patient – especially with teenagers who may not always be the most respectful. Grandma worked hard on the farm, making sure Grandpa and my uncles were fed, the house was clean, and her grandkids were taken care of. It took a very special person to corral 5 to 7 grandkids almost every day – luckily, they lived on a farm and she could tell us to go outside. Grandma and I spent a lot of time baking, walking around the cow lot, sewing, reading, and watching old movies. Grandma spent a lot of time with our family because my youngest brother was sick so much. She would drop everything at the drop of a hat and come and stay with us for months on time. Not many people would do that – no matter who it was for. Our tribal knowledge is specific to us. To this day, every one of us grandkids can tell you the plots to the old classic movies – from Shirley Temple to Fred & Ginger to Spike Jones – much to the dismay of our spouses. Ask any of us what the Purple Movie is about and we can name it (it’s the Glenn Miller Story, by the way). Ask us what is on the menu at Hickory Park and we can tell you – in fact, most of the people at Hickory Park can probably name all of us, including spouses and kids. And, we know that meatloaf and tater tot casserole has to be made is a specific casserole dish, and hamburger gravy has to be made in a particular skillet. There are a couple of memories I treasure about my summers with her:
- Gardening and canning in the summer.
- Baking cookies and congo bars.
- Taking afternoon treats out to the field.
- Going for walks and bike rides.
- Reading and her helping with homework.
- Using her mom’s treadle sewing machine.
- How she always had Rice Krispies for breakfast every morning (with ½ of a banana).
- Having SPAM sandwiches.
- How she kept every piece of paper we gave her.
After I got married and moved away, she would send me letters. I treasured those because I could hold them and still smell the baby powder she used every day. We lost her a few years ago to Alzheimer’s as well. I think she knew what was going on and she didn’t want to be a burden to my Grandpa, so she let us go. But she knew who I was when I came up to say goodbye to her.
Great Grandma Sloniger was another big influence on my life. I have a problem when talking to my mom about her, because I grew up calling Great Grandma just Grandma. So Mom and I always have to make sure we are talking about the right grandma. Great Grandma and Great Grandpa lived 1 mile from Grandma and Grandpa, so it was pretty customary for us to walk over there – especially if we were moving cows. Their house was “over home” and we took care of chores at both places. I would go to her house and we would bake cookies (we did a LOT of baking in the summers!) and kringla. She taught me how to knit and crochet. After she moved to her apartment, I would still get to spend the night. We still baked and did crafts. She was very patient with me. Even when she was blind, she never stopped knitting and crocheting. Nothing stopped her from staying busy. She was a teenager during the Depression (depending on what year she told you she was born), so that made a huge impact on her. In fact, I have her rolling pin and it still has the Fareway bread loaf bag that she kept it in – I can’t bear to replace it. She kept all sorts of fabric, and it still smells like her house. A few of the things I remember best about Great Grandma:
- Going to square dances with Great Grandpa, Grandpa, and Grandma.
- Baking all sorts of things.
- All of the flowers.
- The hardwood floors upstairs in her house and the French doors at the bottom of the stairs (which I now have).
- All of the cubby holes in her built-in buffet in the dining room.
- Going downstairs to the basement to make the powdered milk for the calves.
- Watching her create things.
She died in 1993 when I was 17. While she had some health difficulties her last few years, she still kept going. She made an impact on a lot of people and worked hard her whole life. I remember her being a quiet person, but we knew she loved us.