What have you learned from your grandparents? What have you forgotten that you want to bring back as a tradition or memory?
What I learned from those same grandparents was faith, persistence, endurance, and thriftiness. Grandma grew a garden every year until she and Grandpa had to move to assisted living. She would can everything that came out of that garden. Watermelon pickles, pickled cucumbers, pickled beets, pickled onions and peppers, and any other abundant vegetable that could be pickled. The full amount possible of vegetables and fruit were canned at their ripeness. The storage room in the basement under the stairs was all glass Kerr jars with silver or brass rings. Grandma grew up during the Depression, and she canned like there was going to be another one very soon. When we cleaned out their house after my grandparents moved to assisted living around the mid-1990s, we found jars dated from the 1980s and even a new mayonnaise jar with an expiration date of 1978. There must have been an amazing sale on mayonnaise that year. The daily work of a farm must have been overwhelming. Living through the dirty 30s as children and the survival mentality they needed are things I cannot imagine. The tedious work of planning, storing, and prepping food constantly through the year, knowing that a drought could halt that effort at any time, must have been a black cloud thought during all of the good produce years.
Today, we gather our groceries at mass food markets and aren’t even aware of where the food comes from. The members of the greatest generation were self-providers. They milked their own cows, slaughtered their animals for food, kept chickens for eggs, and grew their own crops and gardens to sustain their families through the winter. They sewed their own clothing, mended socks instead of throwing them out when a small hole appeared, and fixed chips in their glassware instead of tossing or recycling. Speaking of recycling: they were the first who were masters at it. As a child I remember my grandparents had a burn barrel and separated the paper garbage from everything else. We had a garbage pit for plastics and tin cans; we kept aluminum cans in bags in the garage, which Dad would haul to the recycler once or twice a year for some extra cash, and food scraps went out to the dirt field next to the house. The cats and dog would rummage through it, and then the rest would decompose and feed the earth. Grandma would keep newspapers for packing postal packages, starting fires, and cleaning windows. Old clothing was cut up to use for new blankets or quilts, or if the clothing were too tattered for blankets, it was used for rags for cleaning. Flour sacks were used for kitchen towels.
Grandma and Grandpa were wise with their money. Their years in assisted living were never a burden on the family. Their persistence in saving and being wise in spending was what kept their care comfortable.
Faith was a priority for both of them. Prayers at every meal were never missed. The Bible was open on the kitchen table when the table wasn’t covered in food or food prep and canning. Every church activity, prayer meeting, revival speaker, missionary visitor, and service was attended no matter what day of the week or what time of the day. Prayer covered me in my various activities, travel, and life choices. I didn’t really think about it back then, but since I cover my kids in prayer, I know for a fact that my parents and grandparents must have done the same for me.
Grandpa Dave and Grandma Frieda were married sixty years. Every major fifth year, there was a party. Sometimes at the church, other times at the school. Big anniversaries were and should be a major celebration. They prove endurance and thankfulness for many years. Thankfulness in the later years included that we had not lost either one of them earlier than we expected. Unexpected heart attacks, surgeries, and medical conditions happened, but we were all grateful when recovery brought them back to us. For my grandparents kept teaching us the lessons of endurance and patience. Grandma lived over five years with dialysis, diabetes, and cancer. My husband and I, when our kids were toddlers, would visit them in their teeny room in the assisted living building. They were cheerful and happy that we visited. Grandpa would get up from a nap, chipper and excited that we visited, even with the rough and tumble toddlers present.
They both passed when our kids were young, but I am thankful that they all got the chance to meet. They set an example of great character to pass on to the generations after them. Yes, they, like all of us, had their bad habits or unique and flawed personalities, but we get to take all of it, sort it out, and build our future with it.
The seeds they sowed are instilled in us, two and three generations later. We have learned to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, along with being teachers of excellence.
What are you entrusting to others? Where are you teaching excellence?
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