My grandmother recently came for a visit. I've been asking her to come for months. She always tells me she is too busy. What does an active 80 year old spend her time doing? Volunteering at the senior center and the bloodmobile, bowling in a weekly league, participating in the red hat society, and acting landlord to over 200 acres of farmland which, in itself, is like running a small business. Yes, she is busy.
She is in the middle of six siblings and her brother has moved to the Dallas area. All the siblings were coming down to see his new house, and spend a weekend in Dallas. I was lucky enough to get her to stay four extra days with me.
The first night her brothers and sisters were in town they sat around the kitchen table swapping childhood stories. What was it like to live in a three bedroom house with nine people? Their grandfather lived with them as well. I heard stories of horse carriages being dismantled and reassembled on top of a roof, coon hunting excursions that ended by being sprayed with a skunk. When one of them got sick, all of them got sick. Once they went to visit relatives in another town and got snowed in for several days and each one of them came down with the flu. I heard stories about my mother, uncle and their cousins, and all the trouble they got into when they got together. They laughed and talked for hours. I sat there in awe and shock. How many people get to hear their living history? I'm still trying to formulate my words about such a magical experience.
Over the next few days I grilled my grandmother with questions. She is used to this as I do it often. I want to know my history. I want to know what it was like to grow up during the great depression. To know where I came from and why we landed in Nebraska. I want to know my grandmother as a twenty something, a thirty something. Why she decided to marry that hot guy on the motorcycle.
Oh the stories were glorious and I just kept saying I need to write this down, but I was so enthralled. Bits keep finding their way into my stream of thought and I'm writing them as they come. I learned that my great grandfather took over the family blacksmith shop at the height of the depression. He was a school superintendent, but because people couldn't pay their taxes the school district went bankrupt and closed. He moved his wife and six kids in with his father to work in the blacksmith shop. My great grandmother fed the vagrants that passed through town. Grandma said there were always people knocking on the back door asking for food. They ate corn meal mush for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When her brother's appendix burst they took him to the doctor where he had to have surgery. Penicillin had just been discovered and my great grandfather watched as the doctor cut him open, cleaned him out and swished penicillin around in his body. All things that we wouldn't see today.
All of these stories were recorded in the family Bible by my great grandmother. The Bible is now with my grandmother's brother here in Dallas and I can't wait to dig around in it for hours. I am thankful for her stories. I am thankful for her. She loves to share them and is happy that someone wants to pass them on, and as long as she tells them I will sit and listen. I feel rooted in time, and more at peace with the decisions I make in my own life. I have come to another change in perspective and I feel as if a shift is brewing. How will I be a teller of stories?