Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Some Front Porch Musings about Grandparents

By L.A. Kohl
October 16, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 19, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

What memories does the word “grandparent” conjure up in your mind? I’m sure the memories are varied and diverse for each and every reader. Unfortunately for me, it is now a word that will always be spoken in the past tense, as my last grandparent passed away on October 8.

My four grandparents were raised in an entirely different generation – a generation that was so unlike mine, I can’t help but look back at their lives with a bit of awe and amazement.

I believe that none of my four grandparents completed even an eighth grade education. I know my Grandpa Cox, who just passed away this month at the age of 93, did not. His family moved from Missouri out to Colorado while he was in the midst of eighth grade, and he never went back to school once they arrived there. Instead, he went to work to help the family make ends meet. The woman he married, my Grandma Cox, began working in a factory at the age of fifteen. My other grandmother, Grandma Hall, had intentions of going into the eighth grade, but when the small country school she attended told her that they didn’t have enough students to offer an eighth grade class…she just got married instead. Grandpa Hall? Well, I don’t know…but I do know he happened to be driving a tractor nearby when my thirteen-year-old Grandma went fishing one day. She caught a snapping turtle instead of a fish, and desperately needed some brave young man to help get it off her hook. It must have been love at first sight – the brave, gallant knight on an “iron clad” stead, helping the young damsel in distress!

My Grandpa Cox did things in his younger years like delivering milk with a horse drawn wagon, and welding items for the military during World War II. Grandpa Hall did anything and everything he could to support his large family during the depression years…farming, building bridges, and hunting a lot of squirrels and rabbits when food was scarce. He would occasionally move the family out to California so that he and Grandma could pick strawberries or other commercially grown produce to earn some money. They’d pack all the kids in the back of their old pick-up, camping out near the highway each night while they traveled.

Of course my grandmothers did the types of things that most women of those days did…making food from scratch (from their bread, to the butter and jelly that went on it) sewing all their clothes, canning hundreds of quarts of produce to get them through the winter…did the work ever end for women of that era?

I often complain about all my daily “chores," but when I consider my dishwasher, my automatic washer and dryer, my vacuum, my microwave…I have to bite my tongue. My Grandma Hall had eleven children, eight that survived infancy; but unlike me, her first six children were boys. During her generation, boys probably didn’t do “women’s work” very often, so I bet for several years my grandmother did all of the cooking, dish washing, clothes washing, house cleaning, etc. by herself – by hand – for a houseful of growing, rambunctious farm boys.

I could write pages and pages about my grandparents; I find their lives fascinating. I wish I would have realized in my younger years what a treasure they were, and had spent more time listening to and remembering their stories. They may not have been highly educated with “book learning," but they were some of the wisest people I ever knew.

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