Maybe I'm just a kid at heart (and I still act like one sometimes), but the days of no responsibility and going to bed at 9 have been over for a long time. I'm thinking about this because I've been reminiscing about childhood memories growing up in the tiny town of Roscoe. My extended family is large and we're very close, so often I'd be in the hands of various relatives or out at "the farm" exploring the woods and making forts.
Interwoven in all of these memories are times spent with my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa were always working at the farm and held immeasurable patience to let us kids "help" them with various chores. It was wonderful though, to see and learn how to can vegetables, butcher chickens, make noodles, grind and stuff sausage and clean buckets of fish. Grandpa had this ability to create all kinds of marvelous things out of scraps of wood. Me, my brothers and each of my cousins all have something he made in our arsenal of kid-stuff. And Grandma was constantly cooking up mountains of rich german stews, soups and dishes. Never using recipes, her culinary delights were always just right and cultured my tastebuds for what "comfort-foods" are in my mind.
Grandpa died 10 years ago. Now all I've got are memories of stove-popped popcorn eaten while watching "The Pink Panther". Going fishing on Cutfoot Lake for walleyes; Grandpa always caught the biggest fish. His large fingers stuffing meat through the sausage grinder (those fingers were much like sausages themselves.) And watching him march proudly down the street in his full Knights of Columbus regalia.
Grandma and Grandpa Fuchs lived in St. Louis, but each summer they'd drive up to visit for a week. We'd go fishing, cruise garage sales, build things in the shop and crochet trinkets out of yarn. It was a summer holiday to look forward to. When Grandpa Fuchs passed away, the end of that era really sank in. Although those days were long in the past, it's the memory of those loved ones that keep them alive.
For a long time now I've only had Grandmothers to visit. Grandma Fuchs - first in St. Louis and now in North Carolina. She can talk for hours about generations of dead relatives and will tell you the story behind every one of the multitude of trinkets lovingly perched on shelves or hidden in the nooks and crannies of her house. Plain old Grandma, my Mom's mom, idling away hours embroidering countless towels and pillow cases, sewing quilts from her old clothes and still cooking up her infamous german dishes. But the last few years, she's been battling the dreadful alzheimer's disease. It's been a real emotional challenge to see her most precious memories slip away. Ones that are still so vibrant and real for me.
Grandma Rose passed quietly in her sleep this last Monday. We all say it's for the best - that now she's escaped from the horrible grasp that alzheimers had on her mind. But it's still hard to see her go. Now that she's gone, those fond childhood memories are flavored with the sadness of a lost loved one.
In our large family, even the youngest cousins are now in college and on the beginnings of their own adult life. The new generation has begun and we've all adapted to our new exploratory and geography-spanning lives. But we still all get together for the holidays. And this Thanksgiving we'll all be there to remember what a wonderful person Grandma was and the legacy of values and love that she left behind. We're all writing down a few of our fondest memories to create Grandma's eulogy. Here are a couple of mine...
I recall when Grandma and Grandpa were working on the farm and I spent the weekend. I went hunting for squirrels and rabbits in Miller's glen with Norm's 22. I brought what I'd shot home and Grandma helped me clean them. Then she fried them for supper that night. I really felt like the man for bringing home "the bacon" so to speak. I thought it was very cool that Grandma knew how to cook rabbits and squirrels.
When I was in high school, I used to bike a lot. Sometimes, I'd bike from St. Cloud all the way out to St. Martin and stop by Grandma's house. It was a 100 mile round trip! While resting at Grandma's, we'd talk about this and that and she always fixed me something to munch on. One of my favorite "Grandma-dishes" was her Knadle Soup. Grandma didn't follow a recipe, but simply seemed to throw a bunch of stuff into a pot and ended up with this perfect blend. So on one of my bike trips out to her house, I asked her to show me how to make it. We spent the afternoon chopping vegetables, stewing ham bones and making doughy flour lumps. I've made my own versions of Knadle Soup since then and each time remember that afternoon hanging out with Grandma.