Della Hoyt Fate was my Grandmother. She was born in Ohio and traveled to Kansas in a covered wagon. She had a twin sister Nella who died of typhoid or cholera on the trip. Della lived to see a man walk on the moon and use a microwave oven although she didn’t own one and did not trust them. She would turn it on and scuttle across the room crying out, “That thing sounds like it is going to explode!”
She suscribed to Life Magazine and The Grit weekly Paper from which I read many serialized novels when I was a child including TRUE GRIT which I later saw twice at the movie theaters with my boyfriend Skip Lewellyn. It starred John Wayne and Kim Darrowby andsome singer I can’t recall the name of right off hand. He sang Rhinestone Cowboy though. He was cute but he died in the movie.
Gran did not get a television until she was in her late Sixties and could no longer read because her eyesight had deteriorated. Today she would probably have had surgery to correct her vision and missed the pleasure of her “stories:” “Days of Our Lives” and “General Hospital,” two of the longest running soap operas ever produced. My Gran had taste! She was also a big fan of Lawrence Welk and would be pleased to know that occasionally I will tune in to his show on PBS and remember the Lennon Sisters paper Dolls I kept at her house when I was a little girl.
My Gran had light blue eyes and graying light brown hair when I first met her or I should say remember meeting her. I must have have been four because I believe Jimmy, my youngest brother had been born but I may have only been three. Uncle Bobby, my Daddy’s brother had driven her and Gramma Gavin out to Ohio to visit us in Pleasant Plain.
I spent many many hours with my Gran as a child. On the North porch in the summer and in the big but crowded with furniture “front room.” She was much older than my other Grandmother and needed more and more help as the years went by. I was given more and more responsibility for her care as the years went by.
It began with me helping her do the house work she couldn’t manage like getting down on my hands and knees and polishing her beautiful oak furniture with Fuller Brush furniture oil and taking all of her many rag rugs (which she had made with her own hands) out to be shaken while she dust mopped. We also did her laundry every two weeks. I guided the clothes through the wringer of the old washer, hauled the heavy bushel baskets of wet laundry up the basement stairs for her and shook each item out for her so she could hang it up.
I don’t know if she and my mother just didn’t get along or what was going on there but my Mother didn’t show a lot of interest in her Mother other than to arrange for me to pick up the slack. Even after I was grown up and out of the house and Grandmother was too infirm to leave the house, Mother never went to see her much or called her. Grandmother didn’t call her either. It was strange.
Well, I didn’t think it was strange then. I just didn’t think about it at all. That’s just how things were. My Daddy was close to his family and we were at his family’s place for Sunday dinner nearly every Sunday but Gran Fate hardly ever saw us as a family unit. She got Christmas Eve and her birthday. That was about it. I suspect she had told my mother to leave my father on more than one occasion and that had caused the rift. Or maybe she had told my mother she had made her bed and now she could lay in it. I don’t think she would have done that though. She would have tried to get us away if she’d had known he was abusing us. I’m sure of it. I have to be for my sanity’s sake.
I know my Grandmother wasn’t all that happy with my Mother’s choice of husbands. She tolerated my father but she did not like his family and she made no bones about that. I can recall overhearing at least two arguments between my mother and my Grandmother about that. I think my Gran felt slighted by us kids because we always wanted to go to the other Grandma’s house when we got to Gran’s.
It wasn’t Gramma we were really interested in. It was the toys and the kids she had there. Gran finally “got it” and collected some toys for us. She also started heating the north porch while we were there in the winter so we could play out there and not get fussed at about roughhousing which was all my brothers seemed to ever do.
When we were old enough she taught us to play Chinese Marbles and would play with us. She also taught us to play Authors and Rook. Rook was a card game that only had numbers (4 suits of 13 cards) and one with a picture of a Raven on it so it was a game that was allowed because it wasn’t used for gambling and therefore wasn’t Satanic. I was telling my gal pals about this the other night and they started laughing and S said, “Sound Pagan to me!” Doesn’t it though. Gran would just DIE if she knew. <snort>
I am glad I went back to Nebraska after a brief respite in Michigan from ages 17-19 for those final years of her life. She really needed me. I needed her. She was the only stability I had in my life all those years.