My grandmother would have been 98 years old today.
She left us a little over 7 years ago, a few months before the "real" 9/11 in 2001.
I remember thinking I was glad that she was not there to see the towers fall and witness the devistation that followed. Not that she was ever a stranger to hardship.
Her father immigrated to Texas from Sweden at the turn of the century. Swedes were recruited to central Texas because they were "loyal and hardworking". My great-grandfather came "over" with his two brothers and his widowed mother. Someone in immigration decided that their last name, Swenson, was too difficult. Their surname was changed to Young, and they settled in a Swedish community near Del Valle named Elroy. Tiny Anna caught my great-grandfather Adolph's heart, and they were married soon after meeting in Texas. They quickly had three daughters. My grandmother was the second oldest. Several years passed and two more daughters were born. Five girls raised on a working cotton farm, and they were expected to help. They attended a small one room school in Elroy and worshipped at the Luthern church.
One by one the girls moved into town and married. My great-grandparents kept the farm, but also bought a home "in town." They all moved within blocks of each other, but attended different churches. The Luthern church had relocated to town and was now an Evangelical Free church. Some of the daughters opted for the Methodist church. Sunday services were about the only time they were not all together.
My grandmother married her lifelong friend, Harold (and her best friend married his brother.) His parents had 9 children, two who had died in childhood. Both of his parents died within months of each other at age 40 when the "Bird Flu" swept the country. The seven remaining children were raised by each other and a loving Swedish community, something CPS would not allow today. My grandfather was fond of saying he lived "pillar to post" as a child, and got around with a cart pulled by a mule. My grandparents married in 1935 and bought a farm in Elroy. I remember asking my grandmother why in the world they would marry in the middle of the Depression. We didn't know there was a Depression, she replied, we had always worked hard and had little.
They moved into town in 1961 and bought the little bungalow that was mentioned in the first post I wrote on this blog. Pride of ownership, and it showed. My grandfather lived there for 23 more years; my grandmother for 40.
Last Sunday I heard a sermon about how, in a spiritual sense, our relatives build a home for us. All that we have has come down through their struggles and sacrifices. My grandmother truly gave her life for us. She helped raise us by sewing for others until the month before she left us. She just lived such a simple life. She loved the music of Lawrence Welk and Marie Osmond. She enjoyed her ladies "Circle" meetings at her church, and always took a Swedish dish called oostakaka or prune whip to potluck dinners. She loved going for drives in the country by the old farm. And she still called Austin's main street "The Avenue".
Time just seemed to stop around her, and things remained the same in her life. I remember trying to explain what the internet and email were to her. She smiled politely, but had no use for the information. She liked life the way it was. She had a paperman who would put the newspaper squarely on her welcome mat and garbage collectors who would walk up the drive to get her cans. She always left them a Pepsi with a dollar bill under it. Wonder if that would work today?
So, at 90, she could still drive to church and do just about everything she had ever been able to do. It was just that her heart got tired. And a few days before she passed away, she told us she had been dancing with Harold. We knew her time was near.
And I still miss her. I'm so grateful for her life and all that she sowed into my life and the lives of my children.
So, Happy Birthday, Gaga. You were the best gift of all.