Yesterday was Easter Sunday, always a sad day for me. It’s a day of remembering of the EASTER PASSING of my darling beloved Gramma Pearl, and while most of the Christian world is celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection….I am fondly thinking about Gramma and the joy that she brought to my life.
It was an Easter Sunday when I was 12 that I came forward to accept Jesus into my heart at the little white church that our family had always attended. I don’t recall ever NOT spending Sunday mornings and evenings at that church with our family and my Grandparents. My Gramma Pearl lived next door to us in our tiny farming town of 40+ homes, and the church was in the next town where my favorite Aunty lived. It was always so much fun to spend Sunday services with my cousins! Anyway, I had always believed in Christ because of the beautiful stories that were a part of my life, as taught to my brothers and I by our Mama and our Gramma. But I’d not yet been baptized, so for several weeks before Easter, my Gramma had been preparing and encouraging me to take that big step! She was so gentle and precious. When the time came for the ‘altar call‘ at church and I was nervous because several pair of eyes were upon me….my wonderful Gramma simply held out her loving hand and actually went with me! That has always left quite a lasting impression on me and is even making me misty-eyed as I write this!
Gramma enjoyed a very happy and fun-filled 3rd marriage. After Nick retired and their big old 2-story house and acreage got to be too much for them to handle, they moved into the nearest larger town, the county seat. They were across from an elementary school, a block from a ball field and a pizza place, and a short distance to anywhere they needed to go. My Mama and stepdad lived there too so Gramma got to see her oldest daughter almost daily and her other daughter a couple of times each week too. Life was good for her. As I journeyed, we wrote very often and I sent lotsa photos. Following my divorce, I moved back to that Hoosier small town and for 4 years, my children adored life with Great-Grandparents and 2 sets of Grandparents constantly being nearby for them at most any event. Since my kids are/were ‘Air Force brats‘ and had moved around A LOT, the 4 years spent there in my hometown gave them a sense of being grounded, of being FROM SOMEPLACE. They really really got to know their grandparents and great-grandparents. This was priceless!
After Nick died, in a few years my Gramma’s health declined to the point that her daughters weren’t able to take care of her. They tried, they really did, but they were unable to lift her so they had to place her into the local nursing home. This is a nice nursing home and my Mama visited her every day. Plus my cousin was a nurse there so Gramma had her own granddaughter to look after her care, and her private bedroom was directly across from the nurse’s station so she and my cousin could make ‘funny faces‘ at each other. This nursing home also has an aviary! Gramma knows all about birds, being the ultimate lover of nature, so this was something that she would converse about with anybody that’d listen! So it really didn’t take too long before my Gramma became the ‘QUEEN BEE‘ around that place! She was well-liked by all: staff, residents, other visitors.
Towards the end, we made a special visit in winter because my Mama told me that Gramma needed to see me and that she wouldn’t be lasting too much longer. I hate cold weather but still, I could not deny my dear Gramma, so we drove overnight to have what we expected to be our last visits with Gramma Pearl. This would indeed be the last visit for my 3 children to have with their Great-Gramma. She was in good spirits when we spent time with her and took our last photos together. After a brief stay with Mama, we left.
When Mama asked me again to come, just a couple of weeks later, I refused her request. I’d said my goodbyes to my dearly cherished grandmother and had been crying several times daily since I’d left her. I did not want to watch her die. I did not want my children to either, nor did I honestly believe that Gramma would want her grandchildren to remember that. So we were gonna wait to return for her funeral. At this point, Mama said that Gramma hadn’t been responsive or opening her eyes at all so probably wouldn’t know if’n I were there or not. Mama and my Aunty were taking turns being by her bedside and chattering, but they did not know whether or not she was aware of them being there. Every other day Mama would call and ask if I were ready to come home yet and I’d say that I would come home for the funeral.
Evidently, I don’t quite remember how it went, but somehow Gramma had asked for me. So shortly before Easter my Mama called and practically begged me to come home because she thought that her mother NEEDED to pass on to heaven but she WANTED me there one last time. There was a different sound in my Mama’s voice that I’d not heard before, or since. Even though I didn’t want to see my Gramma like this, or didn’t even know if we would make it ‘in time‘, the kids and I hurriedly packed and headed to Indiana.
I dropped the kids off at Mama’s house Easter night just as she came home. She was going to bathe and eat before going back to the nursing home but since I was there, she’d be able to take a little more time plus she needed to call my brothers to come soon from Indianapolis and Chicago (she lives between). It was late at night, well past visiting hours, when I walked into the nursing home….but nobody stopped me. Instead, the 2 nurses at the front must’ve known exactly who I was because one of them said, “You’re the one that she’s been waiting for.” And then they both started crying! (I’ll always remember this) I hurried to Gramma’s room and was startled at her appearance! I expected to be, but I am very glad that her eyes were closed. I hugged my Aunty, who was holding her hand and caressing her arm. I kissed Gramma’s cheek and forehead, unclenched her fist so that I could wrap her hand around mine, and told her that I was there. Gramma squeezed my hand and my Aunty smiled, then told me that Gramma won’t open her eyes, and that she hasn’t done so for several days. Well, the women in our family are stubborn and defiant. That includes ME and my only daughter, Mama, Aunty and all 3 of her girls, and it surely started with this beautiful, incredible lady laying beside me because the last thing that she did was to defy what her baby girl had just said that she wouldn’t do! She opened her eyes, barely, but enough to see that it was me standing there beside her smiling at her. She looked at me and I told her that I loved her and that it was all right. She knew what I meant. With a daughter and a granddaughter holding tightly onto her hands, she closed her eyes for the last time that Easter Sunday. My Gramma’s EASTER PASSING has always had a heavy impact upon my heart; not only upon my heart, but also upon my sense of guilt. Did I cause my treasured grandmother extra weeks of discomfort, pain, or unpleasantness just because of my stubborn unwillingness to come home and be present for her death? I did not know that she’d been waiting for me. I will always carry that with me. It bothers me still. But she has a new and glorious body now and I know that she would never ever place any of the blame onto me, even tho I may do so myself. That’s because she always loved me truly and thoroughly, the way I hope to love my grandchildren someday if I have any!
Thanksgiving has come and gone for this year. Many events occurred during the last 2 weeks, other than just that traditional turkey dinner. My small Hoosier hometown celebrated much more than Thanksgiving this time around. Yes….everyone was truly thankful but that big family dinner was definitely not the MAIN EVENT this holiday season. HOMETOWN PRIDE was #1 on everybody’s menu this year as nearly every household was fixated upon the day after Thanksgiving. That was the BIG DAY….for the very first time in the history of Rensselaer High School Football, our young athletes were vying for the Indiana State 2A Championship! This undefeated team from a small town of less than 6000 residents actually won! HOORAY for the home team!
I live in central Florida but you had better believe that I was cheering on the Rensselaer Bombers from my chair right in front of my computer! My brother was at the game, which was played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. I stayed with Facbook throughout the entirety of the game because I knew that at least 20 of my ‘friends’ were regularly posting every event plus plenty of short videos. So I was still able to view EVERY touchdown. How thrilling to see about 100 faces in the crowd that I knew. Also, how humorous to see them bundled up for the cool Hoosier weather while I was in my flip-flops here in Florida! I enjoyed the commentaries. It was fun watching the faces as they discovered themselves on the Jumbotron. Everybody was wearing their new ‘Bomber Nation‘ jerseys or their own former high school attire (if they still fit!) and it was wonderful to see the old school colors again: red and black!
So much has transpired during these past 2 weeks. Tragedy as well as Triumph. We’ve had a death in the family. My best friend of 49 years got her very 1st granddaughter and is expecting grandson #3 in a couple of weeks. This same friend retired 2 days after that granddaughter was born so I’m certain that she and her hubby will enjoy babysitting duties now that their schedules aren’t as hectic. Two of my children were honored at their workplace with a fabulous banquet, as per Disney tradition, for being 10-year Castmembers at Walt DisneyWorld! I’m soooo proud of them! My youngest son’s fiancee got the amazing promotion that she’d been hoping for and so far is enjoying her training quite a bit. My daughter-in-law finishes college this week too. I’m tired just trying to think about it all, my mind cannot keep up!
The photo above is our high school mascot. I’ve always thought that this little Bomber is a cute fella. I still think of my home team whenever I see the colors red and black together too; always have and probably always will. I like those colors. Same as the Chicago Bulls, which is, of course our favorite NBA team (the Pacers probably run a close second tho!). Rensselaer is a sports town. St. Joseph’s College is in Rensselaer and the Chicago Bears held their annual training camps there every year in August for 30 years, from 1944-1974. I think most folks still root for ‘Da Bears‘, while some also cheer on the Indianapolis Colts (did I mention that Rensselaer is geographically situated halfway between Indianpolis and Chicago?). As for baseball, well that’s easy. We’re all die-hard Cubs fans! Folks from my hometown NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! High School Football has been played in the fall, talked about, and attended for approximately 115 or more years in our town. That’s about as far back as anyone IS SURE ABOUT….maybe more! So that means that portions of 3 different centuries of HOMETOWN PRIDE has finally brought home the ultimate victory, plus bumped our school up into the next division too! Hmmmm, that makes me think of something: if’n it can happen for small-town guys like Rensselaer Bombers, who have waited over 100 years….I’m thinking that there’s still hope for those Cubbies yet! Make it happen Chicago Cubs!
My Mama makes the best APPLE DUMPLINGS in the world! This is my opinion & it’s undisputed. Nobody can change my mind tho many have tried. Nope….won’t happen; can’t be done….hers are best! No room for discussion! Yes, I am a very good cook too, and, yes, I probably COULD prepare them just about the same as Mama does (I’ve watched and assisted numerous times since I was a young girl) but that just wouldn’t be the same, now would it???
This time of year brings the falling leaves in the top half and middle of our country. Friends and kin like to ask me the same thing every year at this time, and that is whether or not I’m missing the changing of the seasons and the beautiful, splendid, colorful, and ever-changing scenery. I always emphatically answer a resounding “NO”! I don’t like the cold in any way, shape, or form! As for the spectacular changing colors….viewing their lovely photos on social media is plenty enough for me. I do NOT need to be there physically in order to admire my Lord’s awesome handiwork.
Autumn DOES bring ‘apple harvest’ tho, which means APPLE DUMPLINGS, apple pies, apple cider, homemade applesauce and/or apple butter in the crockpots, and caramel or candied apples; and also bobbing-for-apples at get-togethers! I grew up in northern Indiana where there were always plenty of apples to pick. The school kids would be taken by the busloads to a particular apple orchard for a special day of being educated about the apple harvest, and would then be treated to apple recipes to try and bring home, as well as having fun and games before being taken back to school. I remember chaperoning when my youngest son’s class took this ‘field trip’ and enjoyed an amazing day with his classmates. My biggest surprise of that day was the gigantic jar of Apple Blossom Honey that I bought. It was the tastiest honey that I have EVER had in my entire life! Just the thought of it makes me want some RIGHT NOW! But I’m not willing to drive all the way to Indiana just for honey! Florida’s Orange Blossom Honey comes in 2nd place, so I settle for that.
Now, at this time I will add a tiny note to mention that the Cracker Barrel restaurant does indeed offer a rather yummy dessert that they TRY to pass off as an Apple Dumpling, however it is actually more of an Apple Cobbler or some kind of an Apple Dessert Casserole. Anybody that knows me will attest that I’ll use every excuse to dine at Cracker Barrel because I feel that their ‘Southern cooking’ reminds me the most of my own Gramma’s cooking. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast OR fried catfish with turnip greens and dumplins are my ‘go-to’ meals that I could enjoy every week, much to my children’s dismay (since they are the ones that take me)! IF I’m lucky….or perhaps it’s ‘if my daughter is feeling sorry for me’….I’ll get her to share one of those big desserts with me. It’s delicious for sure, but usually just tends to create a hunger for Mama’s APPLE DUMPLINGS even more!
Late September of last year we drove to Indianapolis to attend my beautiful niece’s perfect wedding. (believe me, my love for her is one of the very few reasons that I’ll return to that cold climate!) We stayed a couple of days with my Mama and I didn’t even realize until a few months later that I’d totally forgotten to ask her to bake some APPLE DUMPLINGS for me! When I called and mentioned it to her, she got a kick outa that….HA! I’m getting sooooo forgetful that I’m having trouble remembering things, even requests of my fave desserts that ONLY MAMA can make just the way I like it! But AHA! Next spring at the end of April I certainly hope that I remember to ask for them when I go to visit Mama for her 80th Birthday Celebration! I realize that apples will be out of season and I know that it’ll be her birthday but I still want my treat!!! And only Mama can make it for me….and that’s just the way it is! This time I’m getting my APPLE DUMPLINGS!