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Monday, January 16, 2012

Yet the summer which was to change everything was coming nearer every day. When boys and girls are growing up, life can't stand still, not even in the quietest of country towns - Willa Cather.

The first 18 years of my life, I spent a couple of weeks on my Grandparent's farm in Washington, Iowa. It's gone now, it shouldn't have been ephemeral, but it is.
Grandpa first rode up to the place in a covered wagon. He never owned it, he worked it for a lady in town, Mrs. Meeks. The Aunts have told me about having no indoor plumbing, for a time, and remembering when they first got electricity. Mom rode to school on the tractor. There were no buses.
Grandparents, Effie and Dell. Salt of the Earth doesn't quite cover it.
Euphegenia was trained as a milliner. That woman could do ANYTHING related to textiles. Sew, knit, crochet, weave...I am still in awe. And she painted, and could make anything green grow. Her garden was a sea of blooms. I once brought a pathetic cut rose with me to their house, I can't remember what the occasion was, but she grabbed it and nursed it, and I swear to God, a few minutes later that thing was blooming like crazy.
Dell farmed well into his 70's. He and Effie had moved into town, but he still helped my uncle. At breakfast, every morning, he fueled up for the long day ahead. He loved kid's sugar laden cereal, and toast and bacon that was cooked to charcoal, carcinogens be damned. My Grandmother would take all of the toys from the cereal and pop them in a drawer in the guest room. All of us cousins would make a beeline for that drawer whenever we arrived.
He taught me how to play checkers. He'd let me win. Sitting across from me, cigar stub between teeth, and contemplating each of my moves...He'd say "Well, well, well, well...". And then he'd let me win.
In a town of 3000, less than  my high school in FL, everybody knows everybody. I can't tell you how many times I was introduced to complete strangers as Dell and Effie Walker's grandchild, and they knew me right away...It was surreal.
I have an image of Grandpa Dell that is firmly etched in my mind. Home for supper, Tall, thin, white hair, tanned, lined, sleeves rolled up. Amazing.
He had an old Chevy that he drove me around town in. Mind you, he never took it out of 2nd gear. If my Dad was riding with us, this drove him berserk. Many times, he took from town out to the farm, on two lane farm roads. Semi's would ride up on his ass, and hit the air horn. He'd just nod, smirk, and wave, cigar in teeth the whole time. Then he'd look at me and wink, and chuckle.
In those days, the farm was run by my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Tom. I'd go out there, hang out with my cousins, who were older than me, but put up with me anyway. We sat on the stoop and played War. We played King of the Hill. I got my ass kicked. We chased barn cats, crawled through barbed wire, chased fireflies, caught them, slept with the jars and shook them for nightlights. Green grass, an old horse trough with goldfish, sparklers, cranking homemade ice cream. I treasure it.
Both of them passed in my Senior year of High School. Grandpa came back from coffee and shuffleboard in the town square, laid down for his noon nap, and never woke up. Grandma followed 6 months later. Her last day, she took some pictures of her garden, finished a painting she had promised to my Aunt Jean, sat down in her chair for a nap, and passed.
I miss them so much. Solid, warm, no nonsense people, but still incredibly irreverent. They always laughed so hard at my nonsense, no judgement, just always love.

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