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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: Grandma's Home
By Regina Rupert
11/23/08


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My little grandma is dying. Her impending death is not unexpected, nor is it entirely unwelcome, since she has been suffering from Parkinson's disease for a number of years now. She is almost 89.

Growing up, I didn't see Grandma often, as most of my life was spent at some remove from her hometown in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, I knew she loved me, though our interactions were by and large in the context of boisterous holiday family reunions where the main attraction for me was having fun with the seven or so cousins who were closest to my age. Grandma’s house was special—-an old red brick where we kids spent hours exploring every space from the attic to the “secret” spot under the stairs. We slid down banisters, raced through the halls, and played endless games of hide-and-seek, dodging clusters of chatting grownups but never the redolent smell of fried oysters.

My mom says that in her younger years, Grandma did not walk; she ran. Everywhere. No wonder—-she had 11 children and a dairy and chicken farm to tend to. Plus she had to read all of the schoolbooks her children brought home, which is how she furthered her education. Though she was bright and loved learning, she'd been unable to attend school after the 8th grade because it was too expensive. Her father had died during the worst of the Depression, and her mother had five mouths to feed with the money that came in from selling homemade potato chips. To support herself, Grandma went to live and work for another family in the community.

At 20 years of age she met and married my grandpa. My favorite picture is of the two of them on their wedding day on the porch of the house where their simple ceremony was held. She wears the plain garb of a Mennonite bride: white cape dress and black shoes and stockings, hair parted in the middle, then pulled back tight under a covering. Grandpa is dressed in a black, high-collared suit. Side by side, they stand with their hands behind their backs like shy teenagers. But both of them are laughing--Grandma with her mouth open, Grandpa trying hard to remain serious and failing.

When she and Grandpa set up housekeeping in the big stone house on the family farm, it didn't even have running water. There is another picture of the two of them, this time in their work clothes, looking solemn in the face of the task before them. Little did they know what lay ahead, and even in hindsight I can only imagine. How on earth did Grandma have time to carry, give birth to, and nurse eleven children? Let alone change, wash, hang out, and fold their diapers? She grew all the family's vegetables, then picked and canned them. She cooked every meal from scratch. She sewed all the family's clothes. I feel tired just thinking about it, but over time Grandma made that hand-me-down house into a well-managed home, all with plenty of energy to spare.

In later years, Grandma downsized to a smaller house, so our family reunion changed venues. That was the only real difference, however; Grandma was still the same. She made dozens, maybe hundreds, of quilts to be distributed to needy people. She researched Grandpa's family tree, then taught herself how to use the computer so she could write two books about his ancestry. She created countless scrapbooks, including one for each of her grandchildren and many of her great-grandchildren (my son treasures one of the last that she made.) Even when she moved into a retirement community at the age of 82, she insisted on tending a small flower garden, long after it was safe for her to do so. As recently as this year she was helping out in the mail room at the nursing home.

Grandma, you are now beyond the reach of my words, but still I am sending you all my love and admiration for a life lived well and fully. Thank you for the legacy you have given me: your example of integrity and service to God. Our family gatherings won’t be the same without you, but I know that this year you are going home for Christmas—-forever. No diapers or dishes there, but I’ll bet there are plenty of wonderful—-and weedless-—flower gardens. I can’t wait to come and see you and Jesus. That will be the best reunion of all.


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Sonya Leigh11/29/08
This is a very sweet and engaging memoir. Thank you for inviting us into your family...what a remarkable woman your grandmother was.