She made the best pie crust, grew roses and every kind of berry in her garden, hung her laundry to dry when her brand new clothes dryer worked fine and spied on me with those blue eyes through the passenger rear view mirror of grandpa’s 1965 forest green Mercedes Benz.
Maria Theresa, known as Resi, would have been 109 today. My grandmother spoke sternly to my grandfather in her native German tongue but wore a smile to the rest of the world. At night she would let me brush out her waist length snow white hair after she undid her braided bun. Every summer I stayed with my grandparents and felt like royalty. Sipping ice cream floats every afternoon in the lawn swing, my legs barely touching the grass. Their acre and a half was my kingdom. Day dreaming under an apple tree, running through the sprinkler, wandering through the garden snacking on snap peas and strawberries.
I can’t eat a raspberry today without tasting those summer days at grandpa and grandma’s house. The minute my nose whiffs the sweet berry and my lips feel its softness I remember everything: her perfect posture, down comforters, German potato salad, school shopping trips to the mall, her hugs and extra helpings of food when I told her I was full.
When I was in college and visiting grandma in the hospital after her stroke she gave me a gift. Always giving gifts, even when a stroke had taken her voice and ability to move. Grabbing my hand and placing her wooden crucifix in my palm she wrapped my fingers around the smooth wood.
No, grandma it’s yours. It had been in her unaffected hand all these days in the hospital. But grandma wasn’t someone you could say no to. I left the hospital clinging it tightly.
Grandma fully recovered and lived many more years. Her hair no longer in a braided bun but short and permed, living in an apartment then a nursing home. But now when her memory floods my being, I think of her hanging laundry, standing at her stove, bending down in her garden, handing me the brush to run through her hair or smiling at me through the passenger rear view mirror.
Happy Birthday, grandma. You helped make me who I am today and I feel your presence like the sweet smell of berries on my lips.
by J.G. McGlothern