Four years ago today, I sat on the edge of my 105-year old grandmother’s bed, intently studying her face, which was timeworn and beleaguered with hard lines and deep wrinkles. She was quietly waiting for the Lord to carry her home. We all were. (My mom and sister were there, too.) During her century-plus time on Earth, she’d certainly given of herself all a woman could possibly give.
My grandmother was one of my very favorite people; there were few like her. My father’s mother, she’d given numerous years to helping to raise us kids. There was no job she didn’t take on when it came to supplying for the family, whether it was sharing households, growing gardens, or raising farm animals.
Watching her lying in a fetal position and struggling, not to breathe again, but to not take another breath, I thought back on all of the wonderful memories she was leaving me.
We lived in Black Forest, Colo., a bustling little town of about 20,000 people today, but in the ’50s, it was just a few homes separated by miles of heavily wooded, heady-scented Ponderosa pines.
One of my most vivid memories is when she was building a log room for my sisters and me onto the back of our home. No, you did not read that wrong – she was building it. She did have the occasional help of my dad; however, he was in a full-leg cast for almost a year, so mostly granny built that room.
She’d cut the trees, drag them to the back of the house, and stack them up. Then, one by one, she’d take the logs, lay them across two sawhorses and “skin” them – or shave off the bark with a skinner. Next, she’d notch them and then stack them on top of each other, forming the walls. The process was long, but she worked steady.
Anyway, one particular afternoon, as she was busy skinning and I was busy “helping,” I had an accident. But no worries, she was also Dr. Granny.
I was always bare-footed, and I was under her shirttail that day, I stepped on a nail sticking up from a discarded log. I screamed, and as I stopped to pick up that foot, I stepped on another nail with the other foot. I was then yelling bloody murder, and even though I don’t remember the pain, I remember feeling the pain.
She dropped everything and started running and yelling for help. She swooped me up in her arms and threw me in the wheelbarrow. My dad came hobbling from where he was and saw me sitting there screaming.
He went to get the car to take me into Colorado Springs as my grandmother grabbed a can of coal oil and poured it into the bottom of the wheelbarrow for my feet.
Now, for all you non-country and/or younger folks, coal oil was once used as a home remedy for countless ailments, including coughs, cuts and wounds. It was used orally by adding sugar cubes, molasses, or honey to mask the taste (like the night I was keeping the whole family awake with the croup), and topical treatments were used on bandages or by pouring the oil directly on the affected area. I don’t know if it was exactly healthy, but obviously, Dr. Granny knew, and I guess she was right because I’m still here.
I was always right behind her. If she was outside, I was outside. If she was inside cooking, I was inside cooking. I was amazed she could make a chocolate cake without a recipe. She also made biscuits, and the world’s best apple dumplin’s. In my small world, she was amazing. I didn’t learn until much later in life that she only went to sixth grade. You never could have proved it to me.
She did pass on to Glory Land peacefully. I eased onto the bed and snuggled behind her until she took her last breath, then I whispered a silent “Thank you” to the Lord as tears rolled down my cheeks. Over a hundred years of our family’s heritage had just passed on, but her memories will always remain. Wonderful, precious, sweet memories. Just like the hymn: “Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight, precious, sacred scenes unfold.”
This past week, I had another memory pop-up – one of my mom. She always made the best rice pudding when we were little. I started craving it, so I had to make one. Once made, I remembered why I love this particular desert – it’s a wonderful comfort food. Here’s her recipe. Enjoy!
1-1/2 cups of cooked rice
2-1/2 cups of milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of raisins
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9-inch glass-baking dish. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and then stir them together. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until lightly browned and set.