October 9, 2006

My daughter and her husband visited yesterday and in the course of conversation we decided to drag out a photo album. It's something we have not done in a long time. While looking at the pictures we came across a few of her great grandparents whom she never had the good fortune of meeting. It brought back many a good thought to me and a few rembrances which I passed along to my daughter. I wrote this little essay years ago, and thought I would post it today as my memories again are renewed of them and, it just occurred to me after all these years, a trait they shared, their complete lack of self. From my perspective they were always giving. It's like I just discovered something I always knew inately, but never until now understood personally what makes some people lovely human beings. I apologize for my babbling.

An essay

By Jim Kittelberger

I was blessed with two grandmothers who defined what grandmothers are. One was of ‘English’ heritage and the other German. Two different types you could not invent. Circumstances had a lot to do with it, my English grandmother whose name was Anna was a tall straight woman who in her entire life never had an excess ounce of weight on her frame. When I saw pictures of the tall spare women who left their homes in Oklahoma during the depression and headed for California, who looked like all hope had gone out of their lives, I was always reminded of my dear sweet Grandma Anna. Her life I fear was not happy. She was involved in a dysfunctional marriage before the term was even invented. Consequently it was only Grandma Anna and no Grandpa. She had very few worldly goods and, of course, nothing to give to a little grandson except her quiet love. She gave that in abundance and I remember her fondly.

The complete opposite to my English grandmother was my German grandmother whose name was Barbara, who ran a home filled with people, good food, lots of hugs and a Grandpa who was a typical German immigrant, a big man who sat in his chair and smiled at me but didn’t waste too many words on me. Grandma, a short stout woman who looked strange whenever I would see her without her apron on, cooked, baked, and raised three girls and a boy in a house with two bedrooms and a toilet in the basement and washtubs for baths. It was a home always filled with the good smells of fresh chickens being cooked and strudels, kipfels and other delicacies being baked. She handled a knife with the adroitness of a magician, slicing through dough for homemade noodles and then swinging it around to illustrate a point in a conversation. I loved being around her, and even as a child I knew the significance of her habit of squeezing my face and calling me butchalee. A term with no meaning in the English or German dictionary, but I knew without doubt that it signified love.

Now, I am married to a Grandmother. She, like all women, one day without fanfare, or realization of time gone by, find they are suddenly grandmothers. They almost seem to have been implanted with a grandmother-chip, they start doing things that their mothers did when they became grandmothers. Whenever the grandchildren show up at our house, she cannot let them go home without a bag of leftover food, or candy, fruit, or whatever. As the kids are starting to go out the door, she will be flitting here and there depositing things in that bag. It’s a tradition, or maybe just a thing that grandma’s do. A word for all grandmothers or prospective grandmothers, keep up the good work because the little kids will remember forever. Look at me, I’m ancient and I still remember my grandmothers with love, and a smile.

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