I was unbelievably blessed with two awesome Grandmas. Today I will write about "Little Grandma" as she was affectionately called. I am only 5 feet tall, and she came up to about my shoulders. She was born in Sicily on June 4, 1900, which means she would be 110 years old today if she was still living. As it was, Grandma made it to to age 93 in this life, and basically living independently until her final months.
This is the only family photo which shows my grandparents with all of their children. It was taken in 1934. My dad is on the far left; next to him is his brother, Anthony, who died at age 21; next to Anthony is brother Jacob, who died at 15. The remaining six children all survived into late adulthood and four are still living today. Grandma had just turned 17 when she married Grandpa, and she had all these children before she was 34 years old.
Grandma's name was Josephine and my family lived next door to her and Grandpa until I was 11 years old. Then we moved to a bigger house, but only 3 blocks away.
Between our houses was a home made concrete path that went through my grandparents' huge garden. I was free to come and go as I pleased, and Grandma's door was never locked. But there was something sacred about their home and I think it was all the praying that went on there. Grandma was a little hard of hearing, so she didn't know how many times I would walk in her house and find her on her knees, either beside her bed, or in front of the living room couch. In later years, when she lived in a smaller house and I would drive over to visit unexpectedly, I would bang on the door but she couldn't hear me, so I would look in the window and see her just praying away while sitting in her chair.
My grandparents didn't drive, so our family always took them to church. Those were the days before seatbelts and as many as 10 of us would pile into our station wagon, the smaller ones sitting on the laps of the adults. Grandma always carried Chicklets gum in her purse, and we kids couldn't wait to get on her lap and ask for some.
I often maneuvered to get invited to Grandma's for lunch on Sundays after church, because she always had a big pot of spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove, usually with some chicken pieces in it. My grandparents always prayed both before and after their meals, and they also used little cards with scripture verses on them which were read before every meal.
Grandma may have been little in stature, but she was a no-nonsense, capable woman who raised eight children who were all born at home. She cooked, cleaned, gardened, canned, sewed, and did all the other things a homemaker did in those days. She was generous with her produce from the garden and her fruit trees through the years of the Great Depression, never turning a beggar away. She kept the household running in spite of losing two sons to diabetes within a couple of years, and without any income when my Grandpa had to go away to a sanitarium for months, suffering with TB.
When Grandma turned 90, our family had a huge birthday party for her in the church fellowship hall. Her six living children each stood up and called her blessed, sharing memories and stories. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and there are many) blessed her with music and other talents, and each one stood in line to give her a rose and a hug. There were many displays of her handwork and photographs, and a video playing of an interview my sister had with her to document some of her life.
I have not one single memory of my Grandma ever being anything but loving, kind, and hard working. Seems she always had an apron on, and her hair was always rolled up in a little bun in the back of her head. All I have to do, even now, is think of her and my eyes fill with tears. I miss her so much. When she was dying, I had a terrible time of letting her go. I remember the last time I saw her at the nursing home, the night before she passed. I knelt beside her bed, holding her soft little hand. I cried till there were no tears left, and prayed like I had seen her do so many times. The release finally came, and I thought of Proverbs 31:31,
"Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
I have no doubts that her soul entered the gates of heaven and I will see her again.
Being a grandma is one of the most precious blessings I have received in life. I've always wanted to be a grandma, even before my own kids were grown up. I just knew it would be something very special. When I think of grandparenting, this verse comes to my mind:
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him..." I Cor. 2:9 NIV
So as I remember my little Italian Grandma today, not only do I count my blessings, but I am challenged to be the best Grandma I can be to my own sweet grandchildren. I hope someday they will be able to remember me as a Godly woman who influenced them for good, because that's how I will always remember my Grandma.
Picture from Memorial Day weekend 2010. From left: Owen (2), Deacon (4), Ethan (18 months), and Elylah (4).