Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day, the Blizzard of '66, and my Grandmother...

Winter storms and President's birthdays always remind me of my Grandmother Messere.  Grandma was born on Lincoln’s Birthday, a fact she was proud of since she was a naturalized citizen. As a matter of fact the family took her to Washington D. C. once and I can still remember her standing under the Capital Dome telling me the history of the building and of the United States.

Grandma had a hard life...she was an orphan from Italy who was farmed out with her a wealthy landowner and his wife.  The boys worked the fields starting at 4 am and the girls worked the food and kitchen.  Though the boys were fed at a certain time, the domestics could not eat until the lady of the house rose and ate…many hours later most times.

The fact was she was the greatest person to tell your troubles to for she understood troubles.  She would laugh after telling you a story of her hard past,  laugh until she cried…and then you laughed - at yourself.

One story I loved was when the state forced her master to send her brother and her to school some miles away.  Since they had to walk, the lady had to buy them shoes.  The first day of school on the way home they stopped to play in a field and put their shoes on a fence post to run free.  While playing someone stole their only shoes…and the master never bought them another pair. (They hated the shoes.)

She came to the United States as an indentured servant and worked to pay that debt back.  She married and lost many babies and one son who ate green apples at 7 years old and died.  She was a Gold Star mother who lost one of her sons at war.  ((Six Served!) dGrandma worked picking vegetables in the summer so she could buy nice things for her house…things Grandpa would never buy! 

Grandma also worked from 5 in the morning to late at night, - in the garden, crocheting, making things…but always working. I can still smell the gardenias that she put out in the summer near the porch.  She said her prayers in the morning and late night ...on her knees ...and she walked to church every day!

Her  “grandma isms” were so great ...she would say…”It only happens to the living”, when I would complain about this or that.   It wasn’t until I was full grown and "threw" the phrase out to a sad co-worker that the real meaning rang clear to me.  “Can only happen to the Living”…well it can’t happen to the DEAD!

She would sometimes quote a phrase she used for my Grandfather...(a stern fellow)…if I complained about someone - She’d say, ”You never have to tell someone to go to Hell…they will go there on their own!”

The day she died we were in the middle of the famous Blizzard of 1966.  We had no heat...the snow was up to the roof.  Grandma lived next door and my father was trying to keep the place warm with the kitchen burners... she was very sick.  Finally he called the village and they sent a V-plow, shovel-ers and ambulance to get her.  

Dad went with grandma to the hospital.  A few hours later he called and said he needed me to pick him up.  All of the neighbor’s kids came over and we shoveled the snow...60 plus inches from the driveway. I had to put chains on the car...and I drove in the path the plow had made to the main road and to the hospital.  We returned home only to hear that the hospital called and that grandma had died!

Everyone called her a saint…she was.  How could anyone like her have had such a wonderful outlook on life?  But perhaps it is through a tough life that we can learn to accept all the pain that life to offer in this world… and look forward to the future. She did!

Video on the Blizzard!

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