Happy Birthday, Grandma

Four generations: myself, mom, G-ma and Emily, 1999
Today my grandma turns 95.


Just let that sink in for a few.

She was born in 1919. To put that in perspective, here are some facts that year:
  • Prohibition begins
  • The League of Nations is founded
  • UPS is formed
  • Mussolini creates the Fascist Party in Italy
  • US air passenger service begins
  • First transatlantic flight
  • Pop-up toaster patented
  • Treaty of Versailles signed
  • NY Daily News begins publication
  • "Gasoline Alley" and "Barney Google" comics premiere
  • RCA is created
  • The average house cost $7,385 ($93,402 in today's money), and a car cost $525 ($6,640 today) 
Basically, my grandma was born so long ago that this world was basically another planet altogether.

My grandma taught me how to play pinochle, Monopoly, Life, Careers, Scrabble, Rummikub and dozens of other games. She instilled a love of games in me. My grandma bought me my first Big Mac.* My grandma taught me how to clean a room quickly and efficiently (her part-time evening job was to clean the local bank ... I always thought it felt super-cool and a little illicit to be in a bank after-hours). My grandma told the best bedtime stories ever. She'd make up endless tales of silliness and adventure and would custom-tailor them to whatever we told her we wanted to hear, improv-comedy style. My grandma introduced me to Swedish food and Tummetott.**She taught me how to bowl and sort of compensate for the vicious hook I have.

My mental image of my grandma is of a shorter-than-average, pleasantly-plump woman with kindly ice-blue eyes and dark set-and-styled curls. She was generally soft-spoken, but with a ready laugh and plenty of cheek when she needed it. On a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training vacation to Florida one year, she wanted to meet the team's then-manager Chuck Tanner. As the team loaded onto the bus and Mr. Tanner was just closing the door, she hollered, "Hey, Chuck!" He came back off the bus and chatted with my grandparents and signed autographs. My grandpa used to call her "Hat" for the over-sized gardening hat she used to wear in the yard.

Though I grew up only twenty minutes from my grandparents, in Northwestern PA, my grandma has lived for some time now in a nursing home in Texas. I only see her once every three or four years. She still watches baseball several nights a week in season, does crossword puzzles and calls her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their birthdays. Every year on my birthday she tells me how thrilled she was to meet me when I was born (I'm privileged to be the first grandchild on that side). She's always treated me like a completely special, treasured person and I've always felt the same about her.

She's an amazing lady and I hope I get back down to visit her soon.

Happy birthday, G-ma! I love you and miss you every day.

*Chris and I lied and said that our mom bought them for us all the time. I'm fairly certain she knew the truth.
**The Swedish "This little piggy" game, but played with fingers instead of toes.

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