Saturday, October 02, 2010

Ich Liebe Dich Meine Großmutter...

* Written September 8th, 2010.

This morning I received the news. She is gone. That she is my maternal Grandmother. I knew it was coming, but the shock of its reality still stung. (I was rendered to a wailing mass on the floor. )I mean, she was 96, but she went to Dunkin Donuts just last week. I don't know what to say, and lofty platitudes are not the salve today. Instead, I will cope by telling you about her, because I think she was amazing.

She came to the US as an 8 year old, straight off the boat into Ellis Island, from the small town of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. She always bragged that she was the only one who didn't get sick on the boat. When she arrived, my Opa, her father, was waiting with what she called "gifts better than Christmas." He had apples, oranges, and "groß", (pronounced "gross") chocolate bars. (it may be important to note, groß means large in German) Their paradise? A small apartment with not even a shower or commode. They had a shared sink and commode down the hall, and it was a special treat when my Opa took her to the public showers and paid a nickle for her to get a bath. She learned Polish and English at the same time. (hence she has no tolerance for immigrants who don't learn English. Politically incorrect? Maybe... but she lived it.) As she grew up she was known for her beautiful singing voice, and was a DJ on a German radio station.

She met my grandfather, who was 11 years her senior, at a dance hall in May of 1932, and gave him not a second glance. He had a reputation as a "lady's man" but once he met his Trudy, he would have none other. They were married in September of 1932. (yep, she played hard to get all of 4 months!) It was during the Depression and she wore a navy blue suit, but there was no money for pictures. That makes me sad. I have always longed for a photo of them on that day. After several miscarriages, she gave birth to my mother... in a hospital. Her sister and sister in law laughed at her "fancy" birth experience. In her day, babies were birthed at home, but my grandfather was not risking her life, or his baby's. (my mom was their only child.)

I remember her telling me how she walked to the market daily for their dinner needs, and how she had a special bucket if she bought fish. She was an amazing cook. Rouladin, Potatoe Salad, Spätzles, Bean Stew, and more. She sent me care packages at college and even as young married woman, that contained her special cowboy cookies and oyster crackers. (I almost wept when my dear friend Heather made them last year.) My favorites were her egg salad and her grilled cheese, which she would always make when we ate lunch together. I still have the recipe card where she wrote down her "secret" egg salad recipe.

Every holiday is remembered with her cookies; "Gramma's cutouts", yummy anise cookies made with a special rolling pin, amazing graham cracker bar thingys, rum balls (made with 120 proof rum. We have pictures of my sister passed out at the Christmas table to prove it ) and more.

She could make a flower grow anywhere, and loved African Violets and Forget Me Nots. When I got pregnant with Lincoln I called to tell her I was growing something special, she ran through a list of fall flowers, and then finally guessed it was a baby growing in my belly. :)

I remember her weeping when I was very little and she accidentally burned me with a cigarette once. She sang to me in German at bedtime, and I learned the word "scheist" from her.

She became a widow at a young age. She worked at and retired from JcPenney's, priding herself on her customer service skills. She lived in an upper apartment until she was in her late 80s. She liked lavender gum and candy. (yuck!) She drank buttermilk, mylanta, and put Cremora in her coffee. She liked half a glass of beer on a hot day. (now Micah knows where I get it from) and could spank hard. (I was the only granddaughter she spanked. Some are not surprised, hush it.)

I regularly butted heads with her, make no mistake. I know I get my stubborn ways from her, and I am ok with that. I love that I have her habits without realizing it. Just last week I told Alden to eat his carrots because they would make his eyes shine. Total Gramma.

Upon hearing that she was gone I wept loudly and bitterly. (I am ever thankful for my Micah and my sweet friends who offered shoulders to cry on and love.) I went to the garage and opened a box of her things my mom let me have, and immediately her smell wafted through the air. If I could seal that box up and keep the scent in it forever, I would. I will never forget the last time I saw her, or the way her soft hands felt in my own.

Folks, write your gramma that letter, spring for those flowers, make that call, go for that visit...

If you are a mama, chances are someday you will be a Gramma. Get your recipes down, pick some choice sayings, and get your scent decided on. Someday, yours will be the box of memories that someone is opening...

I love you Gramma and miss you with more than I knew I had in me.


  1. xoxoxo! Tears in my eyes. I am sorry!

  2. so sorry to hear about your loss jude!! my thoughts and prayers are with you...

    (and i loved reading all your memories of her - she sounds like a wonderful grandma :)