My dad’s parents, Grandma Marge and Grandpa Paul, lived here in Phoenix, on a big lot of land we all referred to as “The Farm.” It was 5 acres of nothing but their house, my Grandpa’s barn, where he was always restoring old cars, and desert for me and my cousins to explore, play cops and robbers, hide and seek, and have great adventures before grandma called us all in for “supper.” Even the house itself was magical. Two stories, that were held together by a spiral metal staircase. The lower level housed a “back room” that was often the focal point of me and my cousin Katherine’s many playdates. We would play with grandma’s old sewing machine, go through her button and coin collections, look at photographs, etc. One of our favorite games was the challenge of sneaking through the house, from the downstairs to the upstairs kitchen to get a gingersnap without anyone ever detecting us. We would crawl on our hands and feet, under tables and Grandma and Grandpa would never catch us. Of course, as I got older, I realize they most certainly had to see us. We were just little kids, not ninjas, but we were never stopped from reaching the cookies. Sometimes, Grandma would walk in the kitchen and act totally surprised to see us as we giggled and giggled, crumbs everywhere.
Or you would find us in the upstairs bedroom, playing dress up or scaring each other with stories about “the lady in the closet,” a ghost we invented ourselves until we believed it so much we would run crying to Grandma. She would always calm us down and we would watch reruns of her favorite show, I Love Lucy, with her. Or Matlock with Grandpa. We also loved playing with the old rotary phone, taking turns doing impressions of Grandpa’s signature greeting, “YELLO!”
My Grandpa Paul passed away unexpectedly in 1997 and from then on, it was just Grandma. Until this past Wednesday, when she passed peacefully at age 91.
In her 91 years (CRAZY!), she lived an amazing life. At her memorial today, I learned so much about her that I never realized. She was born in 1923 in Michigan, where she grew up living and working on a farm that had no electricity or running water. She cared for a circus horse named Billy every winter and played for city leagues in softball and basketball. After high school, she went to Lansing Secretarial School and later got a job making propellers. At the age of 20, she took a train to Detroit to enlist in the military. She was too young and had to have her parents sign a permission slip. She served during WWII in the Women’s Army Corp from early 1944 to December 1945 in Alaska and Nevada, for which she was awarded numerous honors.
When she returned from service, she had a hard time finding a job. Her sister in Phoenix invited her to the Valley, which is the one decision that led to me being in this planet! It’s so fascinating to me how all of this came together to form the family that I know and love. Fate.
She found a job working in the concession stand at Encanto Park in downtown Phoenix. But what really kept her here was a blind date with my Grandpa Paul. They fell in love and she began her 67 year-long stay in Arizona.
Grandma, I love you so much and will miss you even more. Say hi to Grandpa for me:)