As the smell of cinnamon and apples fill my home tonight from a dessert being prepared for the holiday to come, I am reminded of her. Even with the invention of the newest fan-dangled mixer with all the attachments, I still use hers to whip together a recipe that she would have hand picked herself.
When I feel the blades whirl beneath my grip on the handle, I think of her. She has been gone for awhile now. I use the word ‘gone’ loosely because she is more near to me than ever before. We don’t have the miles from Minnesota to North Dakota separating us anymore. She is closer to me than when she was on earth.
There are times when I feel her standing near me. Watching. Encouraging me to do the best I can. She and I are kindred spirits of the written word. I may not be able to see her with my natural eye, but I can feel her presence surrounding me more than ever when I am at my computer writing. She loved to write short stories and was quick to pen a poem.
I was always greeted when we arrived at her house with a long hug as if we could make up the lost time just in that moment. From the minute I walked into her home, I was expected to eat from morning until night. This is how she really showed her affection.
It wasn’t unusual for her to look me square in the eye and say,
“You look hungry.”
People would probably call it a food addiction of sorts these days, but my Grandma Hazel loved to watch someone eat and enjoy the labor of her work in the kitchen. It was her Norwegian descent in full manifestation. No one would ever grace her home without leaving with his or her stomach distended.
Often, when the meals were done and the dishes had all been put away, she and I would spend hours at the dining room table playing cards. When I get too serious about life, I recall the many games of Hand and Foot, Crazy 8’s and Kings in the Corner she and I played. How she made me laugh with her dramatic sighs and feigned sadness if I was winning. If I would play a card that went against her hand, she would always say, “Why are you being so dirty to me?” with a shocked look and high pitched voice. It just made me want to win all the more.
Of course, no match could ever take place without a snack to eat as we battled it out with our Kings and Queens. There was always Brachs candy, homemade caramel corn or some other sweet confection. As we went along in strategy, she asked me questions about my life, and I told her my deepest fears and my biggest worries. I always knew it was safe to tell her what I felt without concern of the news getting back to my parents. She was an ally who truly wanted to know what was going on with me and would take the time to listen.
She would tell me about her childhood and her step-mother who was mean. How her house burned down when she was nine and the woolen dress she despised was the only article of clothing hanging outside on the line that survived. That she only was allowed to complete the eighth grade because she was needed at home to care for all the young children being born. And despite all of her hardships, she had managed to make the most of what she had. At the end of every story she told, she made sure I was aware that without God helping her through, she would not have made it. She emphasized the power of prayer.
Some grandparents leave a fortune to their heirs. Some leave no notoriety. She gifted me with the idea that nothing in life is too hard or complicated to get over as long as heaven is on your side. I am grateful to have known her so I can pass along her wisdom to my daughters not only with oven mitts on but in those times when life is turbulent.
As I prepare for Thanksgiving, and the mixer does its job, Grandma Hazel is still bringing it to the table.