My Grandma Ebbert was my Mother’s mom. She was a little woman. When I was young, she was maybe 5’2, she seemed to shrink a bit each year. When she died she was nowhere near 5 feet tall. Her size didn’t matter, though, she was fierce.
There were three girls and one boy in their family. Grandma’s first child was a son, Billy Byron. He died when he was 10 days old. He had scratched his face with his fingernail and it got infected and he died from Staph. My Uncle Monty was 20 when he died. He was in a car accident, his injuries weren’t life threatening and he was preparing to come home. He developed a blood clot and it went to his brain and it killed him.
My Grandmother NEVER talked about my Uncles. I would occasionally ask questions and although she was always nice about it, she was curt in her answers. I remembered my Uncle Monty. I had pictures of the two of us together when I was a baby. I could ask Mother, but I learned early on to not bring the subject up with Grandma.
Because she was so undemonstrative about anything emotional, I was under the impression that it really hadn’t affected her that much. After I started having kids, I remember talking to Mom about it. I made the comment that it didn’t even seem like she cared. Mother told me a story about Grandma, shortly after Uncle Monty had died. He died in the fall and Thanksgiving was the first holiday after his death. Mother said she went into the kitchen to see if Grandma needed help. Grandma was standing at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes and crying. At first Mom didn’t realize it, but as she got closer, she could hear Grandma quietly sobbing. I had no idea. It made me look at my Grandmother differently.
My Grandmother wasn’t affectionate. She didn’t hug or kiss you. She didn’t say she loved you. I knew she did, but she wasn’t a person who showed any sort of endearment. I can remember exactly when I realized that she really did love my Grandpa. My Grandparents bickered. A lot. He picked at her and she ignored him. When I was in my teens, Grandpa had to have open heart surgery. As usual, Grandma showed no emotion during this time. Everything was treated as matter-of-fact. After the hoopla was over, we all got to go in and see Grandpa, two at a time. I went in with Grandma. He looked awful. He was yellow and he looked so small in his hospital bed. He was hooked up to dozens of wires and he had an oxygen mask on. It scared me and I started to cry. Grandpa motioned me over and told me that he was going to be ok, not to worry. I told him that he looked like something out of a scary movie. He got tickled and when he laughed, you could tell it hurt him. That comforted me. If he was laughing, he was going to be fine. We got ready to leave so he could get some rest and I saw the only intimate moment I ever witnessed between my Grandparents. She went over to the side of the bed, stood on her tiptoes and leaned in to give him a kiss. She had her hands on the bed rail, pulling herself up and forward and Grandpa patted her hands. Neither of them said a word or shed a tear. The moment was so intimate, I was suddenly uncomfortable. I felt like I was peeking in their bedroom.
My Grandmother was stubborn and funny. She didn’t mean to be either. Most of the time when she made us laugh, she didn’t understand why and most of the time it aggravated her.
We all went on a trip to Washington State when I was in 8th grade. Grandma didn’t like going out to eat. She was extremely picky and she ate like a bird. She also had cataracts and she couldn’t see a thing. We stopped at a buffet for dinner on the way out there and she went to fill her plate. She came back and sat down in disgust. She couldn’t find anything that looked good, finally settling on some ‘pudding’. We had all filled our own plates and were digging in. All of a sudden, Grandma tossed her spoon into the middle of the table. ‘Dammit! I thought that was pudding! It’s Thousand Island dressing!’. We all died. We were all laughing so hard. She was not. She was MAD! She refused to go get anything else to eat, she just sat there fuming.
On holidays, all of the women would gather around and play Rook. At the beginning of each hand, you placed a bid based on the cards in your hand. Grandma could have the worst hand, no point cards at all, and she would bid the highest every time. Then she would WIN!!. She never remembered what the trump color was and she couldn’t see the colors if she did. My Aunt Vicki, Tana, Erin, Mother and I would all by hysterical. As we were gasping for breath and trying not to pee our pants, Grandma sat there irritated. She never understood why we would get so much humor out of this.
I have so many fond memories of my Grandma. She always wore an apron when she cooked. She sang Alto. Bad Alto. She loved old country, honky tonk music. She would stand in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner, belting out Hank Williams in this nasal twang. She always used a pressure cooker to cook her roasts. Potatoes with every meal and always a plate of white bread on the table. She loved sweets. She would eat a bite, literally, of each dish that she would have for a meal. then eat a ginormous piece of pie. She made the best Texas sheet cake and a pineapple salad that Tana and I always fought over. She worked at Sears. I thought she was so important. To me, she seemed to run the whole store. She loved flowers, kept a spotless house and she would scratch my back until I fell asleep. Everything was routine with her. Household chores were always done on a specific day and she usually planned her meals around what chore was to be done that day. For instance, Monday was always laundry day and that was the day for beans and ham.
As I grew older. I started asking questions about her youth. She had another boyfriend before Grandpa, and after 50 years, he was still jealous. She worked at the Pentagon during the War. She and her sisters went to an all girls boarding school. Her family was wealthy, she made the comment one time that she didn’t even know there was a depression going on. Her father owned a mercantile. They moved around a lot and later in life she hated traveling because of it.
My Grandmother made a tremendous impact on our lives. It seems it was always the women in the family that pulled together during any crisis. When we are together, we laugh and reminisce about how crazy she was and the fact that she didn’t know it. The women in our family are very close. We all live apart and we seldom see each other. It doesn’t matter, we come together and the comfort we all share is immediate. Grandma left us a want, a need, to be together and to remain close to each other.
If I do ir right, my girls and my boy’s girls will be able to continue this. We will recreate the kind of relationship that my Grandmother taught me to aspire to. If I’m lucky, we will form and forge the intimate connection that she paved the way for. Grandma left a group of women who remain standing no matter what. I hope and pray that I can stay true to her and leave all of my girls the same legacy of strength and hope.