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When I was about 6 years old, my grandmother Martin came to live with us. She had gone from being one of the richest ladies in Jerauld County, South Dakota, to a struggling widow, whose son, (my mother’s half-brother) had talked her into signing over her farm to him. He was supposed to pay her rent, and she could live there. Well, he didn’t pay the rent, and she was very unhappy there, and came to live with my mother and father. She always loved him just the same, but she needed a home.
Grandma wasn’t in our home very long before she had a very bad bout with pneumonia, and my mother was very concerned that she would not live. She had T.B. when she was young, and had only part of one lung left, so it was pretty serious. Of course, a 6 year old doesn’t realize all of that. One morning I ran into Grandma’s room, plunked down on the bed, and began to sing “Lazy Mary, will you get up, will you get up today? My mother was so upset with me. In the first place, I learned that Grandma’s first name was even Mary(she had always gone by Eliza), and, I also learned what a terrible thing it was for me to be bouncing on Grandma’s bed and singing to the top of my voice when she was so terribly ill! Well, Grandma did get well after some time, and she always declared that my little song had given her the will to live. (Just to make me feel better, I am sure!)
Some of my fondest memories , came from her presence in our home. I loved to listen to her many stories of days gone by,(homesteading on the South Dakota prairies, etc.) Also, she was so full of proverbs, which really intrigued me. Many of the proverbs were direct quotes from the Bible, and some of them, I think, were her own; but they all seemed so wise to a 6 year old, and, I believe a lot of those proverbs were helpful in shaping my life.
Grandma was always my pal, but never interfered with my discipline, or anything that my parents chose to do. The older I get, the more I admire the way that she managed to do that. She had such a stable, unwavering faith in God. I am sure this was the key to her wonderful patience and fortitude.
Grandma was such a thoughtful person. She was always there to open a door for someone carrying a load, such as water from the well, or wood for the fire. She worked diligently in my mother’s huge gardens, quilted many quilts throughout the winter months, and was cheerful about it all.
One of the most chagrining moments of my life, had to do with my Grandma. I was 13 years old, and had just discussed with friends at school, how we were old enough now that we didn’t receive spankings anymore. (Yes, I came from the “spanking generation”; and firmly believe they were very helpful!) I had always been taught to respect my elders, and I did have the deepest respect for my Grandma. A storm began to come up, and my mother sent my Grandma and me to chase in the baby chicks. We had just let them out of doors for the first time that day. As we left, Grandma said, “Vernabelle, you go to the left, and I’ll go to the right, “and we both went as fast as we could. About that time, my Mother burst outside, and told me to go a different way. Well, I kept going the way Grandma had told me. When the chickens were safely inside the brooder house, my mother grabbed a little switch off of a small tree. I instinctively threw my hand back over the target. The switch hit the mark, but my wrist was in the way, and I received a nice little welt across my wrist. As I sobbed, I wondered how I was going to face my friends the next day in school. Everyone would surely ask what happened to my wrist. Grandma went to bed early that night. When I went to my room, I made my usual detour to kiss her “goodnight”. She put her loving arms around me, and held me so tightly. She said, “I’m so sorry, Vernabelle, it was my fault that you got in trouble today. You must always remember that you need to obey your parents, no matter what I say!” She continued to hold me very tight, and then, she kissed me, and said “goodnight” At that moment, I felt as if she understood me completely. She understood my confusion, and set me at perfect peace. Grandma had nothing but Jesus to make her happy, and I was so thankful for her wonderful attitude. I prayed that night that God would help me be just like Grandma. (Perhaps, that is why God has granted me some extra years, still trying to help me reach that goal, for I fear I have not made that goal yet!)
Another outstanding memory of my grandmother, took place many years later, when my parents allowed me to go to a Christian boarding school for my Junior and Senior years. I begged for a typewriter, as I would be studying typing. My parents did not have a lot of money at that time, and it was a strain on them to just send me to school. (I worked while I went to school to help out with that bill, and earned a whole .25cents per hour for scrubbing floors!) My parents were hesitant to try to buy the typewriter for me, even though, I believe, it was only $40 at that time. My Grandma went to her room, and came back with a little, worn, leather purse. She pulled out $10, and told my Dad that if he could pay the rest, she would give him her last $10 towards the purchase. I begged Grandma not to do it, that I would do without; because I could see that the little purse looked totally empty. Grandma turned the little coin purse over, and shook out a penny. She said, “No, there is nothing I would rather do with this money ,and if I never spend this penny, I will never be broke!” She would not listen to my pleas that I would do without. Well, I received the typewriter, and it was such a helpful item for my studies, and, I thought of Grandma’s sacrifice so many times, and, oh how I missed her!!!
I graduated from school in 1949, and was married the following fall. Approximately 10 years later, my grandmother went to be with the Lord, at the age of 97.
My mother also passed away a few years later, at the age of 83. My father lived to be 103 years old. My Dad chose to live several years in a rest home, so he had a sale of his belongings so that the house could be rented out. Dad was so lonely without my mother around. As we, the family, went through the many boxes to clean out the house, I came upon my grandmother’s little leather coin purse. Instinctively, I opened it, and, there was the penny that she had kept so she would never be broke. I wept, and mourned once again, for my loss, and heavens gain.
Today, there is a picture of Grandma and our little daughter , who was approximately 5 years old, in that picture, hanging on the wall of my home, with the penny beneath the picture, and a little note explaining why that penny is there. That penny will be with me, as long as I live, I wouldn’t spend it if I were starving. What precious memories it holds!
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What a beautiful, touching story. Thank you for sharing with us again, Verna. I love to learn more about friends, and I'll probably never forget this story. :)
Oh Verna, this brings back so many memories for me about the way you grew up and the sacrifices made for you. My own loving grandparents are gone now along with one of the greatest generations that our children will never see . How i wish they could have gleaned from them what we did. LOL..I to know all about the switch! Just loved this article.
Verna, What a wonderful grandma and your memories are so beautiful! Hope you get to share this with family this Christmas!