Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Grandma Bernadine

I had the best gramma ever. Her name was Bernadine. She was called Bernadine because her mother couldn't think of what to call her, and finally after a month or two her grandpa told her mother, "Oh, just name her Bernadine!" This was always kind of rough for my gramma whose sister was named Marguerite. (Much nicer than Bernadine.) She didn't even have a middle name to fall back on! Anyway, my gramma was the keeper of our family traditions and the stories about the family. She was of Scottish descent, and she liked to tell the story of an uncle (or some-such relative) that was supposed to be working with his father at their place of business (I can't remember if he was maybe a farmer...? Good thing she wrote the family history down for us!) anyway, one day he didn't show up. A neighbor told the father that he had just seen the boy jigging up and down the river on a riverboat. The dad went to go get his son and bring him back home to work. He stepped up on the boat and was going to drag him off the boat and home, but he watched the show, and it turned out, he wasn't so bad! So he let his son continue to jig up and down the river. There are lots of silly stories like that that my gramma was the best at telling. Her grandfather had been a union soldier in the Civil War, and since her dad was absent, he filled the father roll in her life. During the War he spent time in a POW camp with a lot of Rebels. He learned several of their songs and he taught them to her. My gramma always had great old songs to sing. She taught us a few of them. I even got her to record a few of them for me when I was 18 and made a trip out to visit. She couldn't remember the songs as well by that time, but I still got them! My gramma was a nurse in the Navy during World War II and that's how she met my grandpa. She says that all the women chased after him, but she never did. So they became friends. That's all they were, and one day Grampa said to her, "I hope you don't expect me to marry you!" And my gramma told him the thought had never crossed her mind, and besides, she wouldn't want to be stuck with a man like him for the rest of her life anyway.

The next week he proposed.

When I was a little girl my gramma would sometimes keep me over at her house for several days at a time. We'd play cards and visit all day. She would take me to the grocery store with her and she always bought Little Scottish Boy cookies. They are shortbread cookies with a big piece of formed chocolate on top with a picture of a Scottish boy stamped into the top. They are REALLY good! She always had m&m's in a jar on her mantle. She had a cuckoo clock that she would let me wind in the mornings (you know, you pulled the pinecones back to the top). She would let me sleep on the other side of her bed and we would visit through the night. One night we were getting slap-happy and the cuckoo clock went off and I shouted back, "Cuckoo yourself, you old clock." We cracked up over that one for a long time (I was maybe 9, it's not nearly as funny now, but it's a special memory.). My gramma liked to teach us little songs and poems and have us perform them for her and her friends. This is one that she especially liked, "Here I stand upon the stage, I hardly make a figure. But if you'd like to hear me speak, (then we had to step onto her footstool) just wait til I get bigger!"

My gramma was afraid of the microwave. She would turn it on and order everyone out of the kitchen until it was finished cooking. She loved blue eyes the best. Everytime she heard there was a new boyfriend in our lives it was, "What color are his eyes?" Oh yeah, I was the only one who married a blue-eyed man, and I was the first to get a blue-eyed child. She sent money to buy him a $500 savings bond because of that. My boy won the blue-eyed lottery! :) (Now that I think about it, I don't think I was supposed to tell anyone in the family, she didn't want to hurt their feelings, but it's a funny story.) She was maybe a little eccentric, but she was always generous with her family. She gave a good portion of her money to various charities. One of her favorites was Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child. I helped her choose things to send to poor children for Christmas one year. My gramma was a prayer warrior and had a prayer meeting in her house every week with a group of ladies for over 30 years. One of the ladies used to bring a prayer list she got off the Internet, and one time, someone had requested prayer for my little boy when we found out he was going to be born very sick. The lady was reading the details, and my gramma said, "That's my great-grandson they're talking about!" To this day, we still don't know how he ended up on that prayer list.

My gramma saved and took care of her things, and in the end, they took care of her. I suppose it's been about two years or more now, but when she could no longer live alone, and they had to sell many of her things, she had enough money put away to move into a very nice assisted living facility. She was well cared for, she had friends and company, which she had been missing very much since my grampa died when I was 10 months old. Everyone knew she had reached the end of her life, and many of the residents, her neighbors, came to tell her goodbye. One of the men who worked there came in on his day off yesterday just to make sure he had a chance to tell her goodbye. When she passed away this evening, she had family with her. My dad and aunt were at her side. She lived a good life. She was tired and old, and suffering. She was ready to go home to Jesus. And she did. She held on a little longer than they had thought she would, but when she went it was peaceful; in her sleep, surrounded by people that she loved, and who loved her. I'm sure going to miss her.


timpani76 said...

I'm glad you got her as long as you did!

Renae said...

I'm sorry you lost her. That was a neat tribute though.

Mary said...

I'm glad too. She was very special to me, but I feel kind of good for her, ya know? Sorry for myself, but thrilled for her. Thanks ladies.

Dana Cheryl said...

Grandma's are the best. I loved reading your stories. We are losing the most interesting generation to have ever lived. I mean WWII... Does it get anymore fascinating than that?! What a rich heritage you come from and how smart you were to write it down. Your kids and theirs will treasure it.

"Mom of four and more" said...

What a perfect tribute--Mary style! I have to assume some of your quirkiness came from her. ;-)
Thanks for sharing!

Mary said...

I'm quirky? I think you guys are the quirky ones, and I am normal! ;) I'm afraid that a good portion of my weirdness does come from the Gross side of the family. My gramma, however, is in a league of her own. They just don't make 'em like her anymore.