This past Tuesday, I received the call from my sweet wife early in the morning, my Grandmother had passed away. In the passing months we have watched as both my aging Grandparents were starting to slow in the activity and slip in their health. I remember making statements to my wife once if one of them passed the other would not last much longer. The message my Grandmother had gone to join her husband was not a surprise, as all through my life I rarely remember a time the two were separated. Once in a great while, I would stop by to visit after fishing in the river in the bottom of the valley, only to find my Grandfather at home setting in his old brown chair. Out would come the question, "You lost?" After a few moments of small talk, the oddity of the house would finally peak my curiosity and I would inquired of Grandpa, "Were is Grandma?" He would smile and report back her location, usually taking care of a neighbor, visiting someone who was ill or with one of her daughters. These rare moments of finding only Grandpa home had the effect of leaving the house feeling incomplete. No matter the time, day or activity it was a rare occurrence to find one of my grandparents without the other close by.
Grandmother was a rare prize for Grandpa. I remember once stopping by close to lunch time with a friend who was fishing with me. The rules of fishing on the farm were always clearly communicated to my guest. If we fish in Morgan, we either stop before going down to fish to visit or before going home. Many of friends have stopped with me to meet and visit with my grandparents. On this occasion, after accepting the invitation to have lunch , we set on the couch and talked while we waited for grandpa to come in from the fields. Sometime passed and we became anxious to leave to go fishing and grandpa had still not come in from the fields. I explained to grandma we needed to eat so we could get going. She sweetly explained to us, "Doyle works hard every day to take care of this family as it is his responsibility to provide for us. It is my responsibility to insure when he comes home I have a hot meal waiting for him." I smiled as I teased my grandmother they broke the mold after god made her because the rest of the world no longer thinks this way and she is old fashion. She smiled and replied, "I was taught by my mother how to be a good wife and companion. We each have roles in this marriage. Doyle has his and I love doing mine." Over the years I have spent many a nights sleeping at my grandparents. Every time around 5 am, grandma could be heard in the kitchen making breakfast. Each time around 6 am the call would come to eat a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs and then out to the farm to assist with the chores.
My Grandmother made the best dill pickles. I believe every child old enough to have had them learned to cherish these as a special treat when visiting. In the back of the house, out the back door encased in concrete can be found my grandmother's root cellar. Normally most children would be terrified of a cold damp dimly light room. We as children knew this room hid the mason jars filled with homemade dill pickles. When parents visited, we as children would set and watch the white door that lead out the back like a puppy begging for food, hoping the offer of one would come. With time grandmother would always offer, "Could I get you children a pickle?" With a yes, we would follow her out the door, down the stairs as we searched the shelves for a bottle of these treasured treats. Grandma would bring the jar in the house and warm the seal under the hot water of the kitchen sink. With the jar open, she would take out a full pickle (as a whole pickle was the only way they tasted good), and wrapped it in a paper towel handing one to each child present. The taste of the pickles were such a treat, once the pickles were gone the grand kids would then split up and share the dill stems, slices of onions and the red pepper encased in the glass. As my grandmother aged and became busy with church callings and time spent with a large array of grandchildren and great grand children, her production of pickles diminished and slowed so only a few bottles we made each year. One can only imagine how difficult it was to realize this special treat was now rationed. Now I was married with a wife and new home. I finally figured a solution to end the rationing of the pickles, I would ask my grandmother to teach me how to make them. On the Saturday we had agreed on, I drove to my grandmother's house and picked her up in my little red truck. With two ice cream buckets in hand, we drove to a neighbor's house to pick cucumbers. As all trips included a time to visit, I was patient as my grandmother visited and told stories of how proud she was of each of her children and grand children. She would ask about each member of the friend's family and only then we went to work filling the pails with fresh cucumbers. With the cucumbers in hand, we drove back to the house and prepared the components of the jars one by one. As each step was taken, I took careful notes of each ingredient. With jars packed with cucumbers, dill, vinegar and secret spices, we set the bottles into the pot of boiling water. After a day of work, I left my grandmother with four of the eight jars we made. I now had the recipe, but most important I had spent a day with an amazing woman who taught everyone about service and love of fellow neighbors. I have made the recipe a few times since when I crave the taste of the pickles, but sadly even though they are from the same recipe and taste similar they are missing something. I can only guess it is the time spent visiting with neighbors, laughing as you work to prepare the bottles and time spent as you wait for each batch to finishing the preserving bath in boiling water.
Many stories of the elect lady can be told. I know many memories are still shared. My grandmother loved her family, found joy in service of others and was completely satisfied being a perfect wife and mother. There was nothing she cared about more then these things in her life. She never lost focus of people in everything she did. You will never find another like her. She was one of the last of the old fashioned women who could loving chastise a grandson when he wore his hat in the house, show grace and kindness to neighbors who were ill and had an enduring love of an eternal companion whom she shared almost every minute of her life with once that promise was made. How fittings it is on this Monday, they will be laid to rest side by side on their 65th wedding anniversary. We love and miss you always. Until then. We love you, Grandma.