This morning I put on a pair of white socks with sandals. Fashion faux pas? I don’t care. My feet were cold.
We laughed at my grandmother when we were kids. She never wore anything except dresses and sandals. And when her feet were cold—she added socks. She didn’t care what color they were—she just wanted warm feet. I understand now.
We laughed at Grandmother for believing in God. No matter how many people laughed and ridiculed her, Grandmother never lost her faith.
She was prejudiced. We made fun of her for that, too, but she made the best desserts on the planet—and she often cooked for all nine of us in the family (Seven children, three adults). Simply put, my mother was not a cook. My grandmother was. She taught me to make chicken gravy, yeast rolls, and from-scratch hot chocolate—which we called cocoa.
Grandmother was tough. When she was in her late 50s, Grandmother traveled the width of the U.S. in a wood-paneled station wagon, cooked meals over an open fire, and helped my father build a log cabin in the middle of nowhere.
Grandmother was stubborn. When she was in her 60s, she got stung by hundreds of hornets. She was deathly ill and should have gone to the hospital, but she refused because she was too sick to put on her make-up. She never went anywhere without putting on her makeup.
When Grandmother was in her 70s, she lived on a boat in the middle of the river and paddled a rowboat to get to shore. One day while I was visiting my family in the middle of the river I heard a commotion and ran to the source only to find Grandmother hanging upside down on the metal extension ladder that led from the deck down to the kitchen. Grandmother wasn’t upset about hanging upside down, nor was she worried that she might be injured—she was furious that her dress had flown up over her head and her panties were showing.
Grandmother lived into her 90s. When she left the family, she lived on her own with a parrot that bit everyone except her. This was no ordinary bird. His first word was a commercial slogan he heard on TV: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” When Popeye bit someone—he laughed. When he flew off Grandmother’s shoulder and a truck ran over him, he hopped to the curb, flew back up to Grandmother’s shoulder and said, “Poor Popeye.” Every morning he said, “Maybelle, toast, coffee.”
Grandmother had her flaws. We all do. But she taught me a lot about old folks. When I’m wearing sandals and my feet are cold—I’m putting on the socks—even if they are white.
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