Growing up my Maternal Grandmother and I were pretty good friends. Some of my earliest memories include my Grandma Erwin. As Christmas approaches I can't help but think of her. Every year she would take my brother and I out Christmas shopping. She allowed us to pick out whatever we wanted, within reason, and that was pretty much our Christmas presents. She took it all home, wrapped it, and put it under the tree. Some years we would go so early in the year I'd forget what I had chosen, which made Christmas morning even more fun. I clearly remember going to Benetton and begging her to buy me a shirt. All the kids had one! She was reluctant because they were a bit pricey but she agreed to buy a peach colored shirt with Benetton in different colors. After one wash it shrunk up so much my doll almost couldn't wear it. She marched right back to the store and got her money back. I had to go with and was never more embarrassed!
I spent many nights sleeping over at my Grandma Erwin's house. She lived, with my Grandpa, in a small house in Iowa. It was the house my mother grew up in and the house I would eventually call my own. Even today I will smell something that reminds me so clearly of that house. It had a particular smell that I just loved, and still do. We would open Christmas presents at home, my mom, dad, brother and I, and then we would go to Grandma Erwin's for breakfast. I can vividly remember the first Christmas morning when we realized she was sick. Christmas breakfast was cancelled and Grandma went to the hospital. She had shingles and then we later found out she had a brain tumor. Now that I'm an adult I long for those Christmas breakfast mornings. Life was so simple and predictable. My Grandpa always had Juicy Juice out of a can ready in the fridge. If I close my eyes I can see us all there sitting in the kitchen at the table. I can see the tan and pink stripes on the carpet, the green lamp hanging from the ceiling and the bell that hung in the doorway. I can see my mom and dad and my Grandpa in his blue, plaid flannel. Hmmm, I don't see my brother, wonder where he is. Oh I'm sure he's there, I just block it out of my memory! Only kidding.
My Grandma Erwin died August 27, 1996. Her brain tumors finally got the best of her and she ended up in a nursing home. I never visited her as much as I wanted to. It was difficult for me to see her. She was clearly not the Grandma I had known all my life. Close to the end she didn't even know who I was. She would occasionally call me by my mother's name, which made the visits almost unbearable. So I stopped going to see my Grandma. It was a decision I now regret more than any other bad decision I've made in my life. She was at the nursing home only 18 months, but it probably seemed like a lifetime to her and to my Grandpa. I did go see her the day she died. She was thin and weak and not the person I remembered as my Grandma. While it was very hard to see her that way, I'm glad I was there shortly before her death.
She was the best friend I have ever had. She played Uno with me for hours without complaint. She would call me up out of the blue and say, "Lets go shopping!" As I got older we would go to Weight Watchers together and then promptly out to lunch at the Chinese place we both loved so much. She let me drive her Escort while I was learning to drive and never flinched! She was part of a Birthday Club that met once a month at a restaurant for lunch to celebrate the birthdays of the group for that month. Even after my Grandma's death I remained close with many of the woman in that club. When the gambling boats came into town she would always be sure to share her winnings with my brother and I. And when she lost big she'd always say, "Don't worry kids, it's just your inheritance!"
While cleaning out my Grandparent's house after the death of my Grandpa, I found this little box filled with post cards sent to my Grandma's father back in 1912 and 1913. There were a few that were sent as a Christmas card but most of them were birthday post cards. I thought it would be fitting to add those post cards to this post. They remind me of simpler times. They were simply addressed to Earl Allicks Letts, IA. No specific address. It amazes me that they arrived to the correct destination. I can't imagine addressing a letter today with the name and the town and then having it arrive to the correct house. We have certainly grown and evolved.
This Christmas I would like to spend some time remembering my Grandma Erwin. I hope to show pictures of her to my children and tell them stories about sleepovers and Chinese food. It makes me sad to know that my kids don't have the opportunity I had to spend time with their Grandmothers. I think we'll play a game of Uno with the kids in remembrance of my Grandma Erwin.