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When I use the term “Grandma Brads”, I always have to clarify which one.  I had one, my Mother is one, and my sister-in-law is one.

But, most of the time, I’m talking about my Grandma.  She was a special character.

Born in 1879, she was 42 when my Dad was born, and was 72 when I came along.  She had eight children, and 23 grandchildren.  All of them adored her.

In my lifetime, Grandma was the picture book Grandma.  She had the whitest hair I’ve ever seen, was ‘a little overweight’, smelled like the kitchen, and hugged you like she’d not seen you in years.

Christmas w G and G Brads

But, she wasn’t always that way.  She, like all of us, was once young.  And very pretty.  And she was in love.

Charles, Ada, Russell, and Vera Brads

With this guy.

My Grandpa Brads

My Grandpa Brads

But Grandma’s story is a tad more tragic.  She was 12 years old when her mother died.  There was a big oval apagraph* of Great-Grandma on the wall, and Grandpa used to say “she was 12 when she died”…syntax wasn’t a priority, and it confused me since the woman in the picture looked a great deal older than 12.

Great-Grandma Harper

It was years before I figured out Grandma was 12 when Great-Grandma died.  After her mother’s death, Grandma was sent by her drunken father, to live with a family and work for them for her keep.

Grandma and her sister, Mary, saw their father fall, while he was drunk, in front of an oncoming train.  He died instantly.

She met Grandpa when she was about 20, he told me once that he thought she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.  He said she had long black hair, and a beautiful smile.  Now, the Grandma I knew had white hair…and for a little kid, it was hard to imagine.  The smile was still there.

55th Wedding Anniversary

55th Wedding Anniversary#

They married, had eight children, and were married for 66 years before she died.

She made all their clothes from the inside out. Underwear, shirts, pants, suits, dresses, all of it. Daddy said he didn’t have store bought clothes until he had a job of his own.

They lived a hard life, the great depression, World War II, and she saw her oldest daughter, Vera, die of typhoid when Vera was 18.  And for a while, Grandpa drank a bit.

My Dad on his sister, Vera's lap.

My Dad on his sister, Vera’s lap.

She sent three sons to battle.

She had her last child when she was 47 years old.  He was the baby, and he lived with her until she died.

Grandma and Uncle Chuck

Grandma and Uncle Chuck

I was 14 when she died.  It was sudden, and unexpected, even though she was 86.  She’d not been ill, she got sick, went into the hospital, and while we were at the viewing for my other Grandmother, Daddy got a call telling him that his mother had died, a mere two days after Mother’s mom.

It was very odd.  From two Grandmas to none in two short days.

Fortunately, I was old enough to have memories of her.  I’ll list a few, and possibly my siblings and cousins can chime in..(shameless comment plug.)

The tiny four room house on Powhatan Street smelled of Clorox, cigarettes, wood smoke, and cookies all the time.  And when I knew her, she had gained a pound or two.  Daddy used to say “She’s 5 feet every way you measure her, UP, down, or around.”

I remember electric lights on the Aluminum Christmas Tree!  Silk pillows from all over the world:  reminders of her soldier and sailor sons.

She had daffodils on both sides of the brick walkway to the porch, hundreds of them.  There were cookies on the counter every time we came there, food on the table, and if you didn’t eat, her feelings were hurt.  Grandpa called her Mama, and she called him Pop.  She never got my name wrong, and never mixed me UP with my brothers or cousins.  She had 23 grandchildren.

Grandma Brads and my cousin, Maggie about 1966.

Grandma Brads and my cousin, Maggie about 1966.

There were parakeets.  When I was a kid, they were Ike and Mamie.  Later, after the Kennedys were in the White House, they were Jack and Jackie.  She didn’t get new birds, she just changed the names.  When JFK died, she had Lyndon and Lady Bird.

She was soft, she was warm, and she was full of love. She had enough love for all of us, but especially Pop.

You could tell, even after all that time that she really loved that old man.  No matter the struggle, heartbreak or disappointment, her sense of family and love were evident every time I saw her.  She took life as it came, the bad with the good, and she loved us all, and she loved Grandpa til her last breath.

*apagraph is not a typo, it’s a photograph that’s been painted…think Olin Mills, only better. Apograph is a dual meaning word, it also means a perfect copy.

#…also, who’s punch bowl was that?  and where did it go?  It is Heisey, and very expensive.

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