In praise of my hillbilly grandma

My grandmother was up for a visit this weekend past. She knew my parents were coming up to see us, and Grandma insisted that they pick her up on their way. Grandma got up at 4:30 in the morning to be sure she was ready. Her voice and way of speaking is a time capsule, an echo of a past mostly lost. She's no Southerner, so she doesn't draw out her words, but she puts an "r" firmly in her "wash." She knows what a paint is, and how they holler like a woman being killed or worse some evenings.

Grandma finally gave up firing her wood burning furnace herself this winter, since the furnace is down in her basement and she doesn't like stairs too much anymore. She's broken both of her arms and both of her legs at least once just since she went on Medicare. She still makes her own clothes, though. She still cooks for herself. She drives into town by herself again, now that her cataract operation has turned out so well.

The only reason she has a television set is to watch baseball. She plans her weeks around the Cardinals. She's sure to be at home for the day games; she stays up late for the west coast trips. She's the reason I can't not root for the Cardinals no matter how much I love Kansas City; I can't help but cheer for my own flesh and blood.

She's visited Europe and driven all over the US, but she's never wanted to live anywhere other than the hills for any of her almost nine decades.

She's buried two husbands, and she's seen a son and a daughter widowed, too.

Grandma was there when my youngest daughter was born. She was in our living room the night my wife came downstairs and announced her water had broke. Grandma held her great-grandbaby before my child was a day old. This weekend Grandma bounded up the stairs outside just to see that great-grandbaby, clutching the bannister and taking the steps as fast as she could.

I've seen the old picture of Grandma from when she married my grandfather. She was such a pretty girl, young and full of hope for the future. Somehow she's found that hope through all the pain and heartache of her years. I think she found a little bit of it in the girl she hugged at the top of the steps, the great-grandbaby now grown to be a young woman.

My daughter sure favors the young woman in that old wedding picture.