That curly-haired woman watching her great-grandson play is my Grandma Alice. She’s lived on the same farm for six decades, and she still drives.
As children, she let my brother, my cousins, and I drink as much Pepsi as we wanted, and she let us eat from her Snickers stash, which was, and still is, in the bottom drawer of the fridge because she likes them cold. She let us stay up late to watch movies and let us sleep in come morning. Talk about a cool grandma! When I was a child I thought it was terribly sad that other children didn’t have a Grandma Alice. I’d also tear up at the thought that I’d have to live without her homemade cookies someday (mortality through the eyes of a third grader). Thankfully, that day hasn’t come yet.
She’s straightforward and blunt (I get it honestly). She’s frugal and incredibly practical. Any time she’s given me a gift, all that she asks for in return is a smile and a thank you. After one of my birthdays in high-school, I sent her a card with a smiley face drawn on the inside and the words “Thank You” written in all caps. She scolded me for wasting a stamp.
When I was in college, she hired me as her cleaning lady so that I could have some spending money. Every two weeks I went down to the farm to clean. She paid in cash and tipped in iced tea and cookies. I loved it. My freshman year one of my professors asked how we would spend our day if we had one day left to live. My answer was easy – go to the farm to be with grandma.
One Friday night my junior year, she drove to town to watch one of my choir concerts. We went to dinner along with my parents afterwards. As we were walking to our cars to drive our separate ways, Grandma said to me, “Jamie behave tonight. And if you can’t behave, be careful. And if you can’t be careful, be safe. And if you can’t be safe, name the first one after me.” I’m pretty sure she gave me such sage advice only because she knew I was a straight-laced prude. Even so, what a cool grandma.
She was a home economics major in college – yes, she too went to college – and that’s where she met my grandfather. They were married 59 years. Grandpa knew his limits with grandma otherwise the War Department might show up. The “War Department” was his term for grandma once she hit a certain point. A couple of months ago, while in the company of Grandma Alice, my husband and I had one of those marital spats that makes us sound like we’ve been married forever. He, probably appropriately so, called me the War Department. It was an immediate cease-fire. Grandma and I both grinned. The torch has been passed.
My grandpa had dementia for many years before passing in 2012. By the end, he could hardly remember anyone’s name. As they sat holding hands on what became their last visit together, grandma said to him, “JR, what’s my name? And if you get it wrong I’m divorcing you.” He answered, “Alice Mae Bender.” After all of that time, love remained, til death do us part.
Over the years she’s given me sewing advice, cooking advice, financial advice, and marital advice. She’s one of my most favorite people on the planet. When I called her this morning to see if she would come up and visit, she immediately answered yes.
I’m 32 years old, and one of the finest things in my life continues to be a visit with Grandma Alice.