It's my grandmother's birthday tomorrow! Long

Tomorrow, December 17, 2008, is my maternal grandmother’s 104th, birthday. The family will have the big party this coming Sunday. Mundane and pointless to some people, but I love my grandmother as much as anyone in the world and I wanted to talk about her.

To get an idea of how much has changed in the course of a life of 104 years I’ll point this out. The day she was born was the first anniversary of the Wright Brother’s flight at Kitty Hawk. No cars, no indoor toilets(not in the country anyway), no antibiotics, no open-heart surgery, no electric washing machines or refrigerators. And believe me, Grandma thinks times are better now. She once wondered “how did we ever keep clean?” when I asked her about stuff like that. The only thing she misses about the past is friends that have gone on before her. She’s the last of her generation.

She lives in a nursing home, but gets around in a wheelchair and can take a few steps if someone is there to spot her. Her bottom teeth are her own and she can eat anything she wants. Hearing and eyesight, not so good, but her mind is still sharp. For crying out loud, she still watches her weight!

Last November she voted in her 21st straight presidential election. How many folks will ever be able to do that? If she could have voted at the age of eighteen it would be one more.

Grandma is an adult convert to Christianity. She started going to church when she was dating my grandfather, and tells of how the first service she went to was December 24, 1923, Christmas Eve. It was a little Lutheran church in the country and the entire service was in German! But she tells of how she was impressed by the Christmas tree they had. Grandma wasn’t baptized and confirmed until after they married, but she became a true pillar of the church, playing for the choir, teaching Sunday School, and so on. When the church in town here had a big evangelism drive she’d baby-sit for couples that were attending information classes. She taught school for some years at the local Lutheran grade school.

Her first job was as a schoolteacher, before you needed a degree. Taught in a one-room school here in Kansas. That’s when she met my grandfather and they got engaged. Now, if she married she’d have to quit her job, it was the rule in those days. The engagement was temporarily broken by a quarrel, then they made it up and Grandpa wanted to get married right away, as in “let’s go right now and get it done” But she said she had to let her mother know. Besides, she wanted to keep her job for just the coming year. They needed the money.

The solution was this. The following weekend they took the train to Liberty, Missouri, which was one county past Kansas City Missouri. That’s where they got the license, so the legal notice wouldn’t be in the KC paper. (Some of the country folks in their Kansas country took the KC paper to get world news.) Then they took the train back to Kansas City and a Lutheran minister married them. Grandpa knew him from when he went to auto mechanics school in KC. For the rest of the year they’d visit each other on weekends, she staying with her folks, who’d give them some privacy, or going to a hotel in Topeka, where Grandpa lived. She once told me “I still remember the way those desk clerks would look at us!” She did quit the teaching job after that one year, but resumed teaching in town many years later. How things have changed. A young woman forced to quit her job because she got married? Inconceivable!

The Depression was hard on them, but with hard work, barter, and faith, they made it, and began raising a family of three daughters. My mother was #2. There would have been a fourth child, but she died at birth. We approach health care differently now, but all Grandma knew was that the doctor advised her not to see the baby. She wasn’t well enough to go to the burial herself, and to this day wonders what went wrong. She speculates Grandpa saw the child, but he didn’t tell her if he did.

In the early 1960’s she got a bachelor’s degree in teaching, to meet the new requirements for teachers. I remember her astronomy book, as she was teaching me, in grade school, all the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere.

Over the years, even in the bad times of the 30’s my grandparents gave others a helping hand. It could be a meal, or letting someone sleep in the back room for a week.

Grandma taught me sewing and a lot about cooking, although the baking came from elsewhere. She was a loving grandparent that made all us grandchildren feel special, but since I was the oldest I think she has a special place for me. My most valued possession is the orange candy dish that was on the back porch in her house for decades. We grandkids would sneak lemon drops, pillow mints, and peppermints and try not to rattle the lid to give us away. And now I know she was letting us do it!

At the age of ninety-seven she moved to a nursing home, leaving her house of almost sixty years. But she never complains. As for me I can’t bear to drive down that street and see the house that I spent so much happy time in, the place that never changed.

We used to watch Dr. Who together, Tom Baker and Peter Davison. I remember when Baker regenerated into Davison we were holding hands and all tensed up with worry. Silly, maybe, but emotions are no less real sometimes even when they’re being felt for fictional characters.

I don’t have the poetry or talent that other Dopers have displayed, and that I have admired, when speaking of their loved ones. The best I can do is hope that when my time comes I will have been a tenth as good a person as my grandmother. There’s no way I could be better.

I remember your previous posts about this amazing woman and I wish to send her a full compliment of Birthday Wishes and Much Happiness !
Who did she vote for in her first election?

When my grandma voted in her first election, the first one wimmen could vote in, she said she voted for whomever my Grandpa told her too. I was a about 11 or so and she was still with it at that time. My jaw dropped and I said, " Grandma, what did you do that for?" or words to that effect.

You did just fine. You’ve probably already told her how you feel about her, but if you haven’t, maybe you could share your OP with her. I can’t think of a better present.

  1. Wow. I can’t imagine what 40 more years would bring.

That is an amazing tribute to a full life and a dynamic part of your history. Thank you for sharing.

Happy Birthday Grandma! :slight_smile:

A very Happy Birthday to your Very remarkable Grandma… Thanks for posting that.

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother, Baker! Thank you.
It’s great that she’s doing as well as she is, given her age, and even more great that she’s still got a sharp mind. She sounds like an amazing woman, and she’s well-deserving of a birthday party. Have fun, and please enjoy all the time you can with her.

What a great story! My grandmother is still young, only 98. My mother moved in last year to help take care of her, which she tried to resist, saying she wasn’t “old!”

happy birthday! go for all the cake and ice cream you can get.

Please tell your grandmother that people all over the world know about her and wish her a happy birthday.

Oh yes you do.

That was beautiful. Now I miss my grandparents all over again.

That was a really sweet post and I wish your Grandma a very happy birhtday.

What a loving tribute! You really should share this with her. Happy birthday to your grandma!

I can’t imagine that having been written any better or with more love. Please tell her some young whippersnappers send their best wishes for a happy birthday.

Oh yeah, 2 weeks from today you have a good birthday too!

Tell her your twin sister sends her very best wishes for another wonderful year.

:)Beautiful. Hope you all have a wonderful celebration and happy holidays.

How wonderful for you to have so much time with your grandmother! My grandmother just passed away a few years ago a month shy of 103, so I know how special it can be. You did a beautiful job of sharing your grandma’s life with us. I hope the party is a huge success and she has a very happy birthday indeed! And I, too, would be interested to find out what was the first election she voted in.

Her first presidential election was in 1928. She says she voted for Herbert Hoover.

Very touching!

My great-grandmother lived to 103. She was an immigrant from Sweden, coming over alone in 1912 at age 21. She died when I was 16… I was too young to really make an effort to get to know her. I regret that I missed out on a wealth of information from her. I never got to ask her about her home in Sweden, her family back home, what it was like immigrating alone, etc. etc. All of that will be lost to history :frowning:

I am so glad that you have all that wonderful history from your grandmother! Make sure to write it all down and give it to your kids and grandkids!

Thanks for posting about this wonderful woman!