January 2, 1914 – March 9, 1999
Every time I strike a match, I think of Grandma K. She loved to set things on fire. She was a bit of a pyromaniac. At her house in the winter there was always a fire in the fireplace. She would sit with her chair at an angle so she could watch the television or the fire. In the spring she would cut down the bamboo, throw a match on the pile of extremely dry poles, and sit and watch the pile burn, listening to the crackle that only dead bamboo makes when it is set aflame. In the summer there was always brush to be burned in the yard, or cookfires to start in the outside fireplace for the Sunday picnics. She lit matches with glee. And she burned without discrimination. We all thought, whatever makes her happy.
A time of day that makes me think of Grandma K. is when I go to bed at night. Every night I sleep under a quilt she helped me make, or inspired me to make, or an afghan that she knitted. It’s like she is there with me. I take really good care of my blankets, because they are the last bits of fabric and yarn that I will have of her. When I look at my afghan, made with colors that she asked me to choose, I think of her knitting each and every stitch, and her thinking of me while she did so.
There are other times when I think of her too, while going on throughout my days doing such things as working in the garden, feeding the hummingbirds, making a big pot of soup, or baking. I always associate my love of chocolate and chocolate chip cookies with her. And apple pie. And anytime a discussion about religion comes up, it’s my past experiences with Grandma K. that define my answers.
Little random things that I knew about my grandmother … She was afraid of the dark. She loved the smell of good coffee. She loved to sew. She was crafty. She was a child of the depression, so nothing was ever thrown away or wasted. She could make something out of nothing. She was a realist. She was extremely religious and a Sunday School teacher. She loved the concept of mail order – little things were always coming in the mail. Letters addressed to “Grandma K” always arrived in her mailbox. She liked chickens and things with chickens on them. She liked wearing light blue, because she said it brought out the blue of her eyes. She loved putting together jigsaw puzzles. She liked reading poetry out loud. She loved her brothers and sisters without question and saved her judgments for her children and grandchildren. She was the center of the family universe, a hub of familial information. She loved National Geographic and Life magazines – through them she traveled the world. She was always sorry when she gave a possession away, because she would always need whatever it was she gave away afterwards. She teared up the last time she saw me, and wouldn’t let me go when she hugged me goodbye, because somehow she knew it was the last time.
Grandma K. had a long life. She lived in two houses during that life, the one at 606 Center in Butler where she grew up and the one at 476 Keasey Road, where she lived after she was married and where she had five children. She spent sixty-four odd years turning that one room cabin that sat surrounded by fifty acres of western Pennsylvania forest into a three bedroom home where anyone, including random passersby, were welcome.
She was an amazing grandmother.