I had five grandparents growing up, one of whom was my great grandma (my dad’s grandmother). I get my white hair from my dad’s mom, Grandma Robinson.
She was a homemaker of the old fashioned legends, one of the women who helped build the persona of the ’40s and ’50s housewives. I remember her wrapping Grandpa’s meatloaf sandwich in wax paper to send with him in his lunch to work in downtown Denver at Columbia Pictures. Off her tiny kitchen was a tinier room with her wringer washer. I watched her feed the laundry through the rollers and then I followed her out back and held funerals for the dead worms on the sidewalk while she hung the wash on the clothesline. I have her old clothespin holder—it looks like a little dress on a hanger—and a few of her old clothespins are still mixed in with my own. It’s nice when I pull one out and know it was hers.
My grandparents were both born in 1911, my grandpa three months older than my grandma. They met at Barnes Business School in Denver when they were about 21. Grandpa saw a pretty girl standing at the big dictionary in the hallway at Barnes School looking up words. My grandpa suddenly “felt the urge to look up some words” himself. They talked a long time, hit it off, and started seeing each other outside of work. They married two years later.
All of my life, and most of my dad’s life, they lived in a small house in Denver just a few blocks from the original Elitch Gardens. (They bought it around 1940 for $4950.) When I stayed with them, Grandma and I sewed together, or did needle work, or rode the bus downtown and went to lunch at the May Company. She didn’t drive a car but she sat for hours every week with her foot on the pedal of her sewing machine. Besides sewing all of her own clothes, she made my sisters and me new outfits nearly every Christmas and birthday. She ground her own wheat and peanut butter, did yoga every day, and never touched sugar, because she knew it was poison. She was a "granola" or hippie type long before that was cool.
By a cruel twist of fate, she was the one out of all of my grandparents who got cancer. In 1987, right before my wedding, she passed away. From Chicago, I went to see her in the hospital just before she died. She said, “Don’t be sad for me, Honey.” That was an amazing comfort to me somehow. Because she told me that, I said okay and stopped crying. It was what she wanted so I tried to do it. When she went home on hospice care, there was really only one thing she wanted to eat, something she’d always deprived herself of in her constant pursuit of health. Grandpa went downtown to the specialty shop located there to restock their supply. All she really wanted was See’s Chocolates. I guess I don’t just get my white hair from her, but my undying love of chocolate. Someday she and I will have to share some again.
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