I wasn't born into Grandma Bair's family, but I managed to marry my way in after I stole her oldest grandson's heart almost 20 years ago. I think I had known Grandma for about 3.2 seconds before I learned that when Grandma Bair says jump, you say, "Yes, ma'am! How high?"
My husband's parents ran their own business when he was a little boy so he spent much of his time with Grandma and Pop. Like a typical little boy, he helped Pop with his chores - digging in the dirt, tinkering on machines and cars, working at the mill or on the farm. There was an endless supply of things for a kid to do with his grandfather, and while he talks about his times with Pop fondly Jerry's eyes light up when he talks about the time he spent with Grandma. The stories he tells the most, the ones that make his heart the happiest, are the stories about the times they spent fishing together. Grandma was apparently the best catfish fisherwoman in the county, and she and Jerry spent many days under the mulberry tree seeing what they could catch.
Grandma was a strong, stubborn, southern lady, and even though she came to Pennsylvania shortly after meeting Pop when he was stationed in Alabama serving in the Army Air Corp, she always had a bit of that twang to her voice. Grandma had southern mannerisms; she expected things to be done certain ways. And if you didn't do things the way they were supposed to be done, boy did she let you have it. It was expected that as soon as Grandma showed up you would go and give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. One time, at a picnic, I didn't realize she had arrived because I was splashing around in the creek. When I finally did see her, boy oh boy! Did I ever get an earful! And I think I heard about "forgetting her hug" every time I saw her for the next year.
There are so many other things that I could say about Grandma, but there are two stories that really stand out to me as stories that give the true picture of who Grandma was. Jerry and I were getting ready for the cake-cutting at our wedding reception, and as everybody was getting ready for the official picture, Grandma made her way up to us. I can still see her finger waggle and the glare in her eye as she said, "Don't you DARE smoosh cake in her face and mess up that girl's dress!" And like a good grandson he did exactly as he was told. I may have gotten a little smoosh in, but even I was worried about the Wrath of Grandma if I made too much of a mess!
The second happened at Jerry's father's funeral. Jerry is super emotional, and losing his dad really took a toll on him. But when Pop died, Jerry struggled with the fact that he was not able to talk at the funeral so he insisted on speaking at his father's service. It was gut-wrenching, and there were several times I wanted to run up and help him. But he made it through what he wanted to say. After the service and greeting what seemed to be like a thousand friends and family members we finally sat down to eat some lunch. As we sat down at the table and started eating, Grandma, in her blunt fashion, said, "You were a mess up there. I don't want you talking at my funeral." We just shook our heads, and feigned shock, but secretly, I know she didn't mean it. Jerry was the grandchild she specifically asked to see when she made her decision on Sunday.
I guess that would be the final story. Even at the end Grandma was stubborn and did things exactly her way. She got a cold, and the past few years her colds have turned into bronchitis or pneumonia. This time she said she wasn't taking anything. That was Thursday, we said our final goodbyes last night, and she went home to be with Pop this afternoon on her own terms.
If they ever decide to put a picture along side the word matriarch in the dictionary, they need to use Grandma's. She was full of love and life, and while she was only my Grandma for 17 years, I am a better person because she willingly shared that love and life with me.