My grandmother died today.
She was able to bring delight to anyone she just met.
She was a living window to a world very different from mine. She had an uncle she could not speak to, because he knew only German and her only English. She remembered when nativist paramilitaries (the American Legion, I believe) harrased “German” farmers who were trying to organize relief supplies to their cousins back home after the Great War. She remembered the burning of German books. She learned to sing German songs in a church where men sat in one part, and women in another.
When my grandma was a girl, her family was what we would now call “low SES.” Her parents did not care about education. If one of their daughters was sick, none of them would attend school, because otherwise it was a waiste of time to go in to town that day. My grandmother supposeldy attended school to the 6th grade, though I do not how reliably or regularly.
I once asked her, “Is there any other thing you wished you could have done in our life, when you were young?” Yes, she answered. She always wanted to be a hair dresser, in town.
I never knew anyone with a quicker tongue, and she was in full control of it. She knew how to handle herself. She knew how to befriend people, and how to turn people against her enemies. If there was a Depression, she would make it through. If there was a war, she would live through it. She once held her daughter in a manger as a tornado destroyed the barn she was in. A small woman, she had the strength of an ox.
“They will never build a road here,” she once said, while riding in a car on the Needles Highway. “Adolf jewed them good,” I once heard her say, referring to a local farmer who struck a good bargain.
My grandmother always spoke well of “Germans” (that is, Americans of German ancestry as opposed to Bohemians, Swedes, Norgwegians, people from cities, etc.), Republicans, and the Missouri Synod. She was deeply suspicious of Democrats, Presbytarians, and people who were unfair to “Germans.”
My dad once said in heaven everyone will have to walk quietly past the Missouri Luthern section, “because they do not know that anyone else is there.”
I hope my dad stops in to see my grandma.